“Our generation is often told that we can save the world,” says Marcel Bischofberger. The 28-year-old student completed his studies of TUM-BWL and mastered a serious life crisis at the same time. In the scope of the Action Week #TUM4MIND (November 5 – 9, 2018) and together with the Junge Akademie of TUM, he wants to draw attention to the importance of mental health and to the question of how it can be maintained.
Marcel, you completed your Master's studies in TUM-BWL in 2017, although you were definitively not in the best of health.
Marcel Bischofberger: That's right. In 2013, I was diagnosed with depression and went through considerable difficulties in the following years. It was not until 2017 that I felt "back in my life" again. The whole thing started while I was working on my Bachelor's thesis. However, the initial trigger wasn't my course of study, but lovesickness.
You noticed that you aren't getting along. What did you do?
The first big step in the scope of my studies was to open up to my supervisor. I told him that I am at a point where I can't go on. He showed a lot of understanding and gave me three months more time for the Bachelor's thesis. That was a great relief.
How did your family react?
My family at home in the Allgäu was a great help, as I was able to wind down there for a while. Then, it was a great help that I moved into a shared flat with three old friends. They accepted me as I am. Family and friends were very important to me during this time.
Despite this crisis, you completed your Bachelor's studies and enrolled for a Master's course.
Yes, that's right. I also completed my Master's thesis with an extended deadline – that was important for me from the very beginning, as I knew that I would need a bit of extra time. In May 2017, I completed my Master's studies of TUM-BWL. Then, I started a course in Psychology at the Fernuni Hagen. I want to share my experiences, help others, and do something in the field of psychosocial support.
Many people have a wrong picture of "depression"…
Yes, totally! "Depression" is still often misunderstood. It is not a "mood", but a chronic disease. Healing takes time, and it is necessary to get medical and therapeutic support. Many are not informed about that. You can't just "switch into a good mood".
There seems to be quite a lot of pressure on people today, especially on young people. Where does that comes from?
Our generation is often told that we can save the world. That's quite a burden – and we think we could and should cope with it all. I think it's a combination of both: expectations from the outside, but also pressure we put on ourselves. We are guided by social perfectionism. We're constantly pondering about what others might expect from us.
Now, you are helping others who are suffering from depression, and young people who might be at risk. What is your message to them?
Firstly: Wind down a bit! Most students think any deviation from the ideal CV is a catastrophe – but it's not like that at all! Secondly, have the courage to say "I can't go on – I need help," if necessary. It's important to open up and talk about it. Talking is gold! You have to talk to people and seek help, even if it's just your friends or your family. Also, be open to the university. I've only had good experiences at TUM.
How did you come up with the idea of organizing an action week at TUM?
Half a year ago, we organized an academy talk at the TUM: Junge Akademie, focusing on stress and depression in a course studies. The resonance was overwhelming: there were 100 people. I met Dominique de Marné, who writes the blog Traveling the borderline. We agreed that the topic is very important and up-to-date – so why not put on an entire action week!?
Did you get enough support here?
At TUM, I felt like I was "charging open doors". Wherever I turned, everyone was ready to provide support – the Junge Akademie and Vice President Gerhard Müller, who contacted Prof. Peter Henningsen of the Department of Psychosomatic Medicine at the Klinikum rechts der Isar, who later became our patron. The fact that even the President participated in our video clip is an honor, and it shows that TUM is really taking the subject seriously.
What will the Action Week in early November be about?
There will be an exhibition of Instagram accounts dealing with mental health, and there will be meeting cafés with people who are affected themselves, under the motto "What you always wanted to ask." We will be showing the movies "Arthur & Claire" with Josef Hader and "Vielleicht lieber morgen" – and there will be five different workshops on Friday. It will always be possible to exchange ideas. We want to talk about mental health. Talking is gold!
Action Week #TUM4MIND (November 5 – 9, 2018) is aimed at TUM-students and staff, focusing on topics of mental health. There will be talks, an exhibition, two films, a panel discussion, and five workshops (prior registration required). Visit www.jungeakademie.tum.de/TUM4mind for more information, for a detailed program, or to register for the workshops.