June16: Our youth are struggling with mental health problems

Our youth are struggling with mental health problems File Photo.

Young people in South Africa have been struggling with the burden of mental health problems associated with poverty, disrupted learning, unemployment and even the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression concern young adults. These issues require the attention of education institutions, bursary providers, student and youth organisations and the government.

Cyril Ramaphosa Education Trust (CRET) has always prioritised the mental well-being of its students as part of a holistic approach to tertiary education support. Holistic student support is vital to ensure the successful completion of studies and the social and economic return on investment by bursary providers. To better understand the mental health challenges of the students it supports, CRET surveyed students aged between 18 and 26.

Learning to manage stress

Of 51 respondents, 90.2% of students felt they’d benefit from discussions about anxiety and stress management. The mental load of tertiary education is made heavier when students are also dealing with the pressure of being the first generation in their family to go to university and concerns around financial stability.

Additionally, 98% of students said they’d like to learn more about time management and relatively common health conditions such as eczema, asthma, anaemia and hypotension. They also want information on skincare, dyslexia and cancer. Students who participated in the survey revealed that most young people don’t see their mental health as separate from physical health; instead, they recognise that both are part of overall good health.

Learning how to manage stress is a valuable skill that can help one achieve a better work-life balance as well as contribute to creating a society that is healthier, both physically and emotionally.

CRET provides access to mental health professionals to all its beneficiary students. Feedback from students who use these services is that it helps them acclimatise to student life, gives them a safe space to speak about their struggles and helps them respond in a healthy, productive manner so they can continue to focus on their academic goals.

Laying the foundation for good health in adulthood

Helping our young people make the most of these precious years of learning lays the foundation for good health in adulthood with the added benefit of producing graduates who know how to manage their stress in the work environment.

Our youth also play a critical role in breaking down mental health stigmas. All stakeholders should support them with services and information that aids greater awareness and condition management. Tertiary students have already faced enormous challenges with the pandemic, and there is an opportunity to change the system for the better. They’re asking for our help – it’s time to heed their call. –  Health-e News


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