BM84: Resolution on Italian Students’ Mental Well-Being

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In Italy, graduating has become a competition.
“20 years old, he is the youngest graduate in Italy.” “Student found dead, hadn’t taken
exams for months.” “Twins graduated together, the secret? Healthy competition.” “He
committed suicide at university, he had lied to his family, the exams were made up.”
“23 years old, she is a doctor: for me, sleep is wasted time.”
These are just a few of the regular reports in all the national newspapers. The media
narrative presents profound contradictions when it speaks of the university,
extraordinary excellences are celebrated while making people believe that they
should be considered ordinary, normal. Students are loaded with asphyxiating
expectations that do not take into account the human need to proceed at their own
As Unione degli Universitari and student community, we are tired of seeing our peers
dying, and we want all political forces to work out with us how to solve this
emergency. But we need the courage to question the entire merit-centric and
competitive system.
We are taught that stopping means disappointing social and family expectations,
that it means falling behind. But since when did studying become a competition?
Since when did training become secondary to performing? We are told that a decent
life is not ours by right, but is something we must deserve.
In the Italian higher education system, the failure to achieve certain academic results
is understood as being solely attributable to the individual’s fault for not trying hard
But many of the obstacles we encounter during our education are structural, such as
not being able to afford to pay rent for a room, not being able to attend classes, not
receiving a scholarship and therefore having to find alternative solutions to continue
our studies. It is unacceptable to delegate to the individual student the responsibility
of getting to the end of their studies by overcoming these hurdles, which institutions
should have the task to remove.

To fully understand the situation within the Italian HE system, it is crucial to also
consider the corrosive competition to which we are subjected and a discussion on
psychological well being that is still in its embryonic stage, which does not even
provide all universities with a psychological support service which, where it exists, is
underfunded and consequently not working properly.
We do not accept the idea that an exam session or the average of our grades defines
who we are. It is legitimate to ask for help and to demand adequate facilities to do so.
Being sick should not be considered normal.
As Unione degli Universitari, together with Rete degli Studenti Medi (member of
OBESSU), we have presented a law proposal to introduce free psychological support
services in schools and universities, in order to provide affordable therapy. Currently,
access to these services in Italy is reserved for a privileged few, mainly due to their
high costs. Furthermore, we propose the establishment of compulsory mental health
education courses in schools and universities in order to prevent mental health issues
and provide early support. We believe that it is also important to provide these tools
to families, teachers and staff, as they often lack the appropriate means to deal with
students’ psychological well-being.
Over the years, higher education has not been a priority of the government and
students are only seen as numbers in a competition with no certain future due to the
precariousness of work. For this reason, the law proposal also proposes
awareness-raising and psychological support for teaching staff and all those who
work in universities. We also demand that they shall be given the tools to recognise
and deal with psychological issues, to ensure a healthy and supportive education
environment for students.

Therefore, as UDU and as European Students’ Union, we demand:

  • That HEIs take responsibility for changing the meritocratic narrative currently
    present within the Italian higher education system;
  • That the Italian government commits to schedule the parliamentary discussion of
    the mental health law proposal as soon as possible, working together with students;
  • That a functioning psychological support service is implemented as soon as
    possible within each HEIs;
  • That the Ministry of University and Research opens a dialogue as soon as possible
    with the elected student representatives in the National Council of University
  • Students, to re-evaluate teaching methods, study paths and especially evaluation
  • methods, involving students and taking into account the results of quality assurance
  • evaluations.

Proposer: UDU, Italy


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