Kirsten Bannert, part of the TUM General Student Advisory Service
Kirsten Bannert, part of the TUM General Student Advisory Service, has been in charge of the TUM4Mind mental health project since 2019.
Image: Uli Benz / TUM
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Mental Health Action Week"Encourage and be approachable"

"We want to make sure that the topic of mental health is visible and talked about," says Kirsten Bannert, the organizer of the TUM4Mind project. This fall we will organize the third digital "Mental Health" action week. From November 8 to 12, 2021, there will be numerous interactive online workshops, in German and in English.

Ms. Bannert, offering the Mental Health Week only digitally was an emergency solution last year. However, it has proven itself as very successful.

Yes, this way all our students could participate, regardless of location, both during the action weeks and with all our other online seminars during the semester. Especially those students who were still in their home countries last year or those who are studying at the other TUM locations appreciate the digital format.

After a difficult last year – which offers do you consider as particularly important for the current program at the start of this semester?

In addition to a few "classics" such as “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction” or the online forum "Staying mentally fit during your studies", the topic of "How can I deal with change or uncertainties?" seems to be very important right now. For instance, we offer a workshop called "Fit for change”.  Due to the many uncertainties, many areas of life can still only be planned to a limited extent.  It is our goal to support students to manage the upcoming semester successfully and to stay healthy.

Your offer reflects your experience from your various coaching services, doesn't it?

Absolutely. We draw on our daily experience and the close exchange with colleagues in advising, coaching and psychotherapy. That is how we designed the current topics. We also evaluate each of our action weeks.

What was best received?

"What are mental illnesses? How can I recognize them? Where can I get support?" - These topics were requested particularly often, indicating to us that they are on the minds of many students. We want to provide information and education in the area of mental health and, above all, to advise on where students can get professional help.

Have students become more mindful about their mental health in the past year and a half?

Some of them may have. However, we can never speak for everyone. Slowing down and being isolated has created a certain mindfulness in some. They may have exercised more, eaten healthier, paid more attention to relaxation. However, we also know that many students felt much more stressed over the past year and a half, and of course, we take that very seriously. By switching to home studying, a regular daily schedule had disappeared for many of them. In addition, most of them simply missed the personal exchange on campus – just as we as employees did.

Would you see the low-threshold offer during the action week as a door opener for more intensive professional support?

TUM4Mind is certainly a first, non-committal point of contact for many people. Our range of topics is very broad. An open and trusting atmosphere is also important to us. We want to achieve that students dare to deal with the topic of mental health. We provide them with introductory and more detailed information about other support services and offers. We are very well connected within TUM and throughout Munich with various counseling and support institutions.

Do you actually reach all students of the TUM?

With our previous digital action weeks, we have been able to reach about 2,000 students each time. According to our evaluation, they represented almost all schools. Our Student Advising and Information Department provides a wide range of different formats to support students.  In addition to TUM4Mind, there is, for example, the General Student Advisory Service, the Academic Coaching Service, and the Service Center for Disabled and Chronically Ill Students. For the time being, most formats are still digital.

Which is not necessarily negative, is it?

I am sure there are many students who prefer this format especially for our TUM4Mind workshops. Not only because of the independence of location. The online format offers a more anonymous setting; you are not forced to speak up or turn on the camera. However, we certainly encourage the students to talk or chat with us and with each other: There is plenty of room for personal questions and exchange.

How are the offers structured?

Our workshops are very interactive, and some of them feature break-out sessions. We invite very committed and empathetic speakers who care about mental health and have a good antenna for young people. Nevertheless, I am sure there are many students for whom a personal face-to-face conversation would be important. Of course, we hope to be able to offer this again in the winter semester and are very much looking forward to it.

More information:

Technical University of Munich

Corporate Communications Center Verena Meinecke
meinecke(at)tum.de

Contacts to this article:

TUM4Mind
General Student Advisory Service
Center for Study and Teaching
tum4mind.ssz(at)tum.de