Spring Depression Hits Hard
“The first thought I have in the morning after a restless night is `Oh no. I have to make it through yet another rotten day.'” As the days begin to grow longer, many people in Finland suffer from what they call `spring depression’. This spring, the mental health care services of YTHS (The Student Health Care Foundation) are booked up full. Timo Niemi of YTHS describes students’ typical problems, “Feeling uncertain or not feeling anything. Everything goes wrong and you don’t have a real handle on your life.” As one depressed student quips, “You take a hard look at yourself in the sunlight and realize how ugly, zit-faced and full of cellulite you are. Counting up study credits and students loans just makes you feel worse.”
Over 1,500 students visit YTHS yearly for mental health care. Niemi is proud to say that most cases are handled without medication. “We work to find out where the depression comes from and care for it with therapy.” Some students’ psychotherapy can last many years. The student-run support center Nyyti eases the long lines at YTHS. Director Kati Kettunen explains, “Instead of healing and treatment, Nyyti focuses more on providing support and listening.” Nyyti’s phone lines are open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 4-8 p.m. The number is 492 006.
The Law As It Is Written
Laws are dictated by the society of the day and rarely predict the future. More often, they simply state the situation and adjust to it. Many laws today haven’t been applied for decades simply because they are no longer relevant to the changed society we live in. “In 1948, for example, a law was passed making adultery an offense punishable by fines and jail. The law is only applied, however, in divorce proceedings. Until the same year, the so-called `statutory evidence theory’ was in effect, by which a confession or the statements of two eye witnesses was needed before there was sufficient evidence. The law is formally in effect, although it hadn’t been applied in at least one hundred years,” explains Professor Heikki Ylikangas. But, out of date laws from days gone by are starting to be hard to find in Finland, as the Ministry of Law is gradually eliminating them. “Even though day to day politics overshadows many renewals, we practice continual maintenance of regulations. There are very few oddities left,” says Markku Tyynilä of the Ministry.
The oldest laws left among the current Finnish laws date back to 1734. Tyynilä states an example, “One law which is really dated is a construction code which says, among other things, that each home should have a garden for growing hops.” He continues, “Some of the sections must have been left as remembrances and to amuse legal scientists. It would seem childish and sour to demand that they be removed when they still represent a small minority.”
Feelings at a First Autopsy
Students of medicine perform their first dissections on a human cadaver after a year of studies. The general feeling among students is that if you get weak in the knees at your first dissection, you simply aren’t cut out to be a doctor. Course leader Heikki Hervonen doesn’t consider a dissection any kind of initiation, however, “Students think that its important to be cool and straight-faced, even if they feel faint. The next night almost everyone sees nightmares or can’t sleep. Students should admit they have these feelings and discuss them.”
Hanna Alanko and Päivi Järvinen prepare themselves to enter the dissection room and see a dead body for the first time.”I just have to think that this is good preparation. It won’t do any good to think about what kind of life he or she had.” Nine bodies lie in the hall face down. The skin has been removed from their backs. Tension relaxes after the students realize that the cadavers hardly resemble living persons – balsamization has made their skin waxy. “It looks as if they were never alive,” comments one student. Hervonen encourages everyone to use their hands as much as possible. The students excitedly examine the bodies closely. Each piece of the cadavers is saved in a separate green bucket after inspection to ensure that the body will eventually be buried whole. Each of the dead persons inspected had donated their bodies to the University for use by the Anatomy Department. Roope Tikkanen is disappointed, “I heard beforehand that it wouldn’t look anything like what is in the books, but I’m still disappointed. It’s all gray mass, you can’t tell the parts from each other.”
Sports Breed Racial Tolerance?
The Finnish national identity is largely constructed around the sports its people enjoy. Becoming a member of the sporting community may be one way foreigners in Finland can win over the Finnish hearts. Professor Risto Sänkiaho believes that a person who participates in some kind of sport is more tolerant than the average Finn. On the Finnish soccer field, however, a Somali is still a Negro. Somalis living in Finland founded their own soccer team, the Vuosaari Vikings, a few years ago when Finnish teams had a hard time accepting players of a different color. Abdukadir Moalin-Elmi, a player for the Vikings, often hears derogatory names on the playing field, particularly when they win. After an undefeated season, the Vikings have risen to sixth division. Sänkiaho comments, “Accepting differences is a part of sports, but so is being a good loser.”
Friday Night at Ale Pub
Ale pub, located in the Glass Palace, opposite City Sokos in Helsinki’s downtown, has gained a reputation as a tacky bar with cheap beer, die-hard Finnish hit music and desperate people. Here is the account of Miira and Liisa’s Friday night adventure at Ale. By 9:30, Ale is packed with people. Ice hockey rally songs play on the stereo system and a few drunks dance alone on the dance floor. As the girls order their beers, one flannel shirt clad man falls into Miira’s lap and asks for a hug. Miira pushes him away and they find a free table. A couple standing near the table begins to fight. The man throws the woman over the table, shakes her by the neck and screams. After a moment they finish, straighten their clothes and slowly light their cigarettes. A short man in a leather vest asks for a dance. After one dance in silence, he explains that he doesn’t really know how to dance but now he can. “It’s because of you,” he says, as his hand grabs Miira’s behind.
Liisa waits in the ridiculously long line to the ladies room. A woman in her forties wearing rubber boots explains her inebriation, “I came with my friend for a beer in the middle of the day. We were only supposed to have one, but before I knew it – I had had eight! Hah, hah!” The sounds of someone heaving come from one of the stalls, everyone smiles at each other understandingly. Back out on the dance floor, the dj is playing all the old sing-along favorites from the Finnish past. Liisa dances with a man a head shorter than her. He says his life is ruined. Why? He points at his ring finger, “I got engaged yesterday. Everything is gone. My life is ruined.” As the song changes, he gets closer, “My fiance gave me permission to do anything I want tonight. Where are you going after here?” Liisa and Miira decide to leave. At the coat check, a drunk in a brown leather coat proclaims to his friend,”I’ve got to leave. I’ve got such a huge hard-on I can’t stand it any longer!” Ale pub is moving this fall from the Glass Palace to Kamppi, at the site of the current Bier Akademie.
Translation by Pamela Kaskinen