Cooperation between the Psychology Department and Charité Teaching Hospital in Berlin

The Berlin EAT association is introducing new changes: the department of psychology will be getting involved locally in the education program, under the direction of master’s student Avija Mitelman (photo). Avija has already been involved with the EAT group in Frankfurt, working with medical students and visiting different schools. Now, she has transferred to Berlin. Nationally, the project is almost exclusively led by medical students, who naturally have a lot of motivation towards combatting the issue. In order to find out more about the Berlin EAT group, I interviewed the new coordinator of the group, Avija.


Avija, what motivated you to work with the EAT?


“The issue of smoking prevention is something very important to me – both in my personal life and in clinical work experience, I’ve been confronted with a lot people who started smoking when they were young, and whose health is now suffering as a result of it. Even as a little kid, I used to hide my parents’ cigarette packets, unfortunately with no success. Finally now, with access to more effective means, I can properly declare war on the cigarette! I’ve also experienced that school students between the age of 12 and 16 are particularly receptive to both positive, but unfortunately also negative influences. With the help of EAT, we can set a positive example and take action when they’re at this critical age to make these school students aware of the importance of their health. It’s also always been a lot of fun to work with students in this age group, something I’m also glad to be doing as part of a smoking-prevention program.”


What do you think is the strongest aspect of the project?


“The strong point of the program lies especially in the project’s approach to working with school students. We don’t treat them authoritatively or reproachfully – we’re there for them as mentors, on par with them, and instead of lecturing to the students, we convey concepts and issues through interactive and engaging activities. I think it’s also great that the program is constantly being improved and that current youth trends, like e-shisha pens are also being taken into account in the program.”


Why do you think that psychology students are the right kind of people to be educating school students?


“Within psychology we deal with human experience, behavior and actions. We’re interested in questions like “how do we make decisions?”, “what leads to risk-taking behavior?”, and “what factors cause persisting addictions?” Based on these findings and this understanding, it’s possible to develop effective prevention programs, in health psychology for example.


It’s important to educate students about the health, psychological and financial consequences of tobacco consumption, so that that they can make informed decisions for or against smoking. I believe that it’s equally important to change how smoking is perceived within society, and to give students skills that they can fall back on when they find themselves under pressure. In situations of peer pressure, even a student who is completely aware of the dangers of smoking can have difficulties in saying “no”. Our aim is therefore to prepare school students for these kinds of risks and to show them alternative ways of dealing with them. I would really like to incorporate stronger psychological considerations, like motivational aspects, into the design of the program. We also really want to focus on the positive aspects of non-smoking, rather than on the negative consequences of smoking. I think it’s great that EAT Berlin is built around interdisciplinary cooperation. In this way, aspiring doctors and psychologists can benefit from each other and optimize the program together. This is the task that we’re committing to for the New Year.”


Avija Mitelman (22) is in the first semester of her psychology Master’s degree at the Humboldt University of Berlin. After completing her studies, she intends on going into psychotherapy.