By Neelam Rahim
The mental health of students and first-year students, in particular, is in the spotlight after two recent suicides at the University of Stellenbosch. Twenty-year-old Ky Rowe died at the Simonsberg men’s residence, weeks after the body of 20-year-old second-year chemistry student Siphokazi Ntozini was found at the Heemstede women’s residence.
Radio Islam International discusses with SADAG Operations Manager Vanishaa Gordhan.
According to Vanishaa, the journey regarding adaptation and managing different environments and teams becomes very different for each individual. Moving to another city to study might also be very hard.
The factors needed to keep in mind regarding students’ mental health include not eating well, looking after oneself and the different emotions felt from time to time. Vanishaa advises students who are unsure what to do about the feelings they experience it’s best to reach out to student helplines to speak to a counsellor to learn how to manage stress or the overwhelming experience.
She says Covid-19 has changed the way we live and see our life. Adapting to that instant lockdown and now having to go to hybrid learning is an adaptation which often takes time and understanding.
The Universities of South Africa initiated recent surveys. Some 29 thousand students participated across 19 Universities. The survey concluded that most students reported that they were okay, about 80 per cent, but 20 per cent is still a big concern.
Vanishaa tells Radio Islam that 20 per cent is a big concern as those students might be struggling with mental issues they don’t know about.
Looking at South Africa, pre-Covid 600 to 700 calls a day have been seen. Way over 2500 to 3000 calls a day are now being seen. Vanishaa said that many people calling in are experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression but are not entirely sure what it is.
“The more we share the warning signs, have these open conversations and talks around mental health creates more awareness and more people can say, I might be stressed or overwhelmed. Let me reach out and enquire what treatment or what can I do to help myself manage on my day-to-day.”
Meanwhile, at the beginning of 2022, SADAG launched peer support groups available to all students across the country. In these peer support groups, students can share their experiences and coping skills that they might have used but also to have a sense of support and community often helps us feel like we are not alone.
Listen to the full interview on Radio Islam’s podcast below.