Student Coen won his fight with depression: ‘Don’t hesitate to ask for help’
Medical student Coen Vulders is using Open Boek Nijmegen to make sure that students can discuss their mental health issues. This week, as part of the Radboud Wellbeing week, he talks about his own experiences with depression, and why it is so important to talk about it.
When you run into mental struggles, the most important thing to do is talk about it with others; this is the motto of Coen Vulders (26). ‘The most important thing is that students realise that their problem isn’t something they just have to deal with on their own, but that they can get help. And that they shouldn’t hesitate to ask for this help.’
This week the campus revolves around the Wellbeing week. There are daily activities, workshops, and lectures surrounding the theme ‘finding comfort in discomfort.’ One of the activities is a lecture from media personality Lize Korpershoek tonight, on her talents and shortcomings and how she deals with them. Tomorrow and Thursday a rage room will be present on campus, where participants will have the opportunity to destroy as much stuff as they desire. Thursday there will also be a lecture given by Maarten van der Weijden about his battle with Leukaemia.
Around three years ago, the medical student started Open Boek Nijmegen, a platform which gives lectures on mental health issues and depression in youth. He did this after struggling with depression himself – and managed to get out of it. Vulders will be talking about that tomorrow evening, during a lecture as part of the Radboud Wellbeing week.
‘For me it didn’t help on the first try either,’ Vulders looks back. ‘When I started therapy, they told me I would need twelve sessions. I made up this image for myself that after I was done, I would be cured; that I would feel great again.’
‘But it definitely didn’t work that way,’ he continues. ‘Everybody’s experience is different.’
‘These are not issues you can identify with as a student’
His biggest problem during his treatment was that a lot of the materials he got during the treatments was designed for adults, not for students. ‘I got e-learnings to do at home meant for people who were worried about their mortgage or their job. these are not issues you can identify with as a student.’
‘So I started looking for specific materials for our age group, but this turned out to be difficult. So I decided to start my own platform, which helps young adults to talk with one another about depression.’
Three years ago, he organised the lectures together with other organisations, but now Open Boek is run by five people. They frequently host talks. ‘Speakers discuss their personal experiences, and there are professionals to explain the therapeutic and clinical sides of it. The meetings are in person, but we make sure everything can be found online. People who don’t dare to or cannot come get a chance to obtain the information in a more low-key fashion.’
Bringing experience to the table
By now, Vulders has no difficulty talking about the issues he’s struggled with for so long. At the moment, he has an internship at a general practitioner, where he frequently sees other people struggling with mental issues.
‘By showing vulnerability, I create a connection between my patient and me’
You can sometimes tell with patients that they have more going on than physical problems. A while ago, I talked to this person who had issues with eating. It turned out this person was going through a very difficult time, which made them very aware of the state of their body. The focus on their body caused extra problems, including eating difficulties.’
Vulders also brings his own experience to the table when advising his patients. ‘That makes it more personal than just medical advice. ‘By showing vulnerability, I create a connection between my patient and me’
Vulder’s lecture will be held tomorrow night (Tuesday) at 19.30 in EOS1.320
Translated by Lara Nijhof