Student Life

Mental and emotional boundaries are not a social construct

By Tanya Kini

The Graduate Institute’s Student Wellbeing and Services Support (SWSS) team organised an information session on ‘Mental Health and Well-being’ on October 22. After introductions, there were also presentations by health professionals, including psychologists who host orientation sessions (which are available for students via appointment), and two doctors from HUG, who also presented their tips and advice on ‘How to Party Safely and Responsibly’. Tanya Kini, the current GISA Welfare Committee President, spoke at the event, where the core tenet of her speech was to try to ensure that the environment at the Graduate Institute is as comfortable for everybody as possible. An excerpt from the speech follows.

The main message today can be summed up in one line:  your own welfare is very important. Whether you book an appointment with the psychologists, attend one of the dance classes offered by GISA Welfare, or even send an email to Student Support to briefly outline your concerns, the way in which you seek comfort and reassurance – looking after both your physical and mental welfare – is necessary to maintain a balanced lifestyle. 

The information session aims to create a culture of discussion around certain topics that need grave attention: mental well-being and harassment. While Dr Pernin from HUG has touched upon aspects of the latter, I continue along the vein of comfort and recognition. I wish to assert that, sometimes, we don’t realise when we might be making another person uncomfortable. However, once we realise that there is a degree of discomfort being experienced by the other person, it is our utmost responsibility to correct that situation, in whatever way that person requires. 

Does this mean that we need to rethink our actions and words constantly? Knowing when another person is uncomfortable also comes with a degree of comfort. You would definitely know if a statement or action is making your best friend uncomfortable. However, with strangers or those whom you are less familiar with, it needs to be stated clearly – whether you have been made uncomfortable or whether you are making someone uncomfortable. 

We are all adults here, and we have come to IHEID with a sense of purpose and intelligence. I do not say this lightly or condescendingly: it is imperative that you do not contribute to the discomfort of another person in any situation. From verbalizing micro-aggressions to ignoring consent to even unknowingly exacerbating someone’s anxiety, we need to hold ourselves responsible for the mistakes we’ve made. Flipping this around, we also need to express ourselves if we have ever experienced them. If you cannot do this alone, find someone who you trust and ask them for support. 

The Graduate Institute prides itself on being a highly diverse institution with different nationalities, world views, backgrounds, sexualities and preferences. One way through which this is being shaped is through the introduction of the Gender and Diversity month, happening all through November. Taking this into account, we must recognise that all people have different outlooks on how to approach certain situations. It would do us well to not disparage them but to help them understand and recognise if they have done something wrong. However, a warning: if resolution cannot be brought about through internal means, there are institutional support systems for the same.

Did this sound extremely preachy? Perhaps. Are you someone who already knows all these things? Maybe. But in trying to create an atmosphere of inclusivity and safety here at IHEID, it never hurts to repeat oneself. Perhaps that is my true aim – forget the degree, we should just try and make the world a better place. 

Preachy or not: find your person or people. Don’t hesitate to call others out on their nonsense. And, if all else fails, you can always find me for a coffee and rant. 


All resources discussed during the session are available at the following link: https://graduateinstitute.ch/wellbeing.

If you would like to know more about GISA Welfare Committee and are interested in participating and organising activities related to it, please contact gisa.welfare@graduateinstitute.ch. Do follow us for updates on Facebook at  https://www.facebook.com/gisawelfare

The current board of the Welfare Committee will end in December and you will get a chance to contest for elections for positions including President, Treasurer and Communications Director. If you’re interested in the same, do contact us at the email address above.

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