Globalscope Germany is ‘now more prepared for mental health emergencies’
Concern for the mental issues that they sometimes see in students in their ministries led the three Unterwegs campus ministry teams in Germany to take part in their first joint digital mental health training recently.
“All three Globalscope ministries in Germany — Tübingen, Freiburg and Erlangen — were writing policies about how teammates should talk with students about mental health and what to do to help students going through a mental health crisis,” said Erlangen team member Matt Kinnemore, who helped organize the training. “My teammate Rebecca Gilbert realized we didn’t know much about German laws regarding health care and connected to a German counselor, who offered to lead the training. I reached out to the other two teams and they agreed to participate in training on German mental health services and suicide prevention.”
Matt shared more details about the training in this Q&A:
What were two key takeaways from these trainings?
Matt: First, we learned about the three-step theory of suicidality. It explained why a person may feel suicidal and what to watch for in a person who may be struggling with suicidal ideation. And then, we learned that the German healthcare system has several resources for mental health, but the process for receiving help can be slow and complicated. While the process still feels daunting, our team feels more confident in knowing about the availability of resources.
What kinds of resources are available for students in Germany?
Matt: These are several resources for students, which is wonderful news for us. Several organizations provide emergency counseling services by phone or online. One of the largest is Telefonseelsorge (telephone pastoral care). This is an ecumenical organization that provides emergency phone counseling 24 hours a day.
The downside is it can be difficult for students to get actual appointments with counselors. There is usually a lengthy waiting period for students to receive reliable and consistent therapy and getting a referral for a licensed counselor in Germany can be quite complicated.
What are the things you watch out for in students?
Matt: We’ve learned that a lack of belonging or feelings of isolation can create immense mental and emotional distress. Also, extreme changes in habits can indicate emotional distress. Finally, feeling like a burden to those around you can affect someone's mental health.
How will you put what you learned to use in your ministry?
Matt: The Erlangen team is working to give students a place of belonging. Germany is currently in a time where we can only interact with one household at a time. This is an isolating and strange time for us and our students, so we're working to find creative ways to get people out of feeling isolated. Our team has decided to create a policy that encourages each teammate to meet with a counselor at least once a semester. We are creating a list of counselors and mental health services in Erlangen in case any of our students needs help with finding counseling resources.
Do you feel better prepared for your ministries now?
Matt: Yes! All three Unterwegs campus ministries found the mental health training to be insightful and gave us an understanding in how to lead people to proper help when they need it. It also gave us a better understanding of the resources available to our students, and how we can best utilize some of the resources in challenging situations.
What was especially insightful was in gaining a cultural perspective on what mental health looks like specifically in Germany. Because of the trainings, we are more prepared for mental health emergencies with students and teammates.