Students’ financial situation in Lithuania is improving, and attention to their mental health issues is being paid more often.
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital to provide financial support, especially for vulnerable groups such as those who have lost their jobs. In Lithuania, students, who lost their jobs, were not entitled to claim unemployment insurance benefits due to their student status. In October of 2019, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania stated that the procedure in force was unconstitutional and discriminatory. A little more than over a month ago, the Parlament finally approved the Law of Employment, which guarantees students the right to claim unemployment insurance benefit.
There is also good news when it comes to social scholarships. At the end of May, the Parlament approved the new regulation of the Law on Higher Education and Research of the Republic of Lithuania, that puts in force national legal provisions as follows: double the size of the social scholarship and to separate appointment procedure from academic performance and to expand the circle of beneficiaries – third-cycle, professional and short-term students will also be able to receive it.
The project funded by The Ministry of Health of The Republic of Lithuania called “A Systematic Program for Strengthening Student Mental Health in Lithuanian HEIs“ aimed objectives of which are to ensure availability of free psychological counselling services and emotional support for students in higher education institutions where there is no psychologist position by assuring qualified assistance in Lithuanian HEIs and implementing preventive activities that build better mental health of students and create as well nurture a positive psychological climate in HEIs. During the process of implementation, students were provided with 862 individual psychological consultations as well as 46 seminars and training courses for personal growth.
The project is coming to an end, but to ensure that after the time of exceeding higher education institutions continue to increase the availability of psychological support for students, LSS has been running a communication campaign for a month now aimed to raise awareness in the public sphere and signing an agreement with representatives of HEI on ensuring the availability of free psychological assistance. Through the held discussions and interviews with specialists, we try to find an answer to the main question of the initiative – “Is students‘ mental health a matter for higher education institutions?”.