A comprehensive approach to mental health is obvious for student residences


“A residence continuously supplied by generators on site in the event of load shedding also reduces stress for students. Photo: Getty Images

With over 30% of university students confirming that they had experienced a common mental disorder in the previous 12 months, with 20% having experienced a common generalized anxiety disorder, it is clear that academic institutions and student residences must prioritize the mental health of students. students.

Moreover, nearly three quarters of UCT students said cited mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are their biggest challenge during Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020, followed by disconnection from peers and speakers, and a lack of quiet places to study.

The mental health of students in the Covid-19 environment has been further affected by the loss of income in their families due to job losses, grief over the deaths of those they care about most and academic pressure with the switch to online learning.

Read: Too Hungry to Go to Class: South African University Students Need Better Support

Concerns about the safety and well-being of the family also have an impact on the mental health of students, with many NSFAS-funded students sharing their NSFAS meal allowances with their families, leaving students hungry and destitute, with a increased anxiety or depression.

The risk is even higher for students from historically excluded and marginalized sectors of the population, in particular women, people with atypical sexual orientation and people with disabilities.

“Students look to formal structures such as residences for a sense of structure and support, and from the college learning environment that offers the assurance of time spent with others with goals and objectives. similar, ”explains Millet Nkanyane, ResLife manager at Respublica Student Living.

“We have noticed an increased need for psychosocial support among our students, who have had to deal with the complexities of online learning, family stress and trauma due to the pandemic and its impacts, all in addition to make your way through the challenges. of higher education. “

Read also : South African universities need to know why student suicide risk is so high

Nkanyane has opened new avenues in student support with Respublica’s ResLife program at its 10 purpose-built residences in Johannesburg, Midrand, Pretoria, Bloemfontein and Cape Town for six years, and stresses that student accommodation must offer students much more. than a roof over their heads – especially in today’s difficult environment.

“Parents and funders should choose a student residence that provides students with everything they need to focus on their lessons and homework, especially in the early years moving away from home for the first time.” , she says.

“The current environment also makes it essential to offer specialist support for Covid-19 well-being, whether to support students who have contracted the virus, or to help detect mental illness and in turn also support these. students. “

Additionally, students should have access to quiet study spaces, unlimited internet access, and sufficient facilities to prepare their food – or buy it, if needed.

A residence continuously supplied by generators on site in the event of load shedding also reduces stress for students.

“A strong ResLife curriculum will also help students learn positive ways to cope with the complexities of student life, whether it’s finding new friends in a socially distant environment, or knowing they have someone. a place to turn if they are struggling with mental health, ”adds Nkanyane.

She adds that older students can be very effective mentors to their younger counterparts if they are properly trained, and that the support of groups like the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) is critical to the success of any education program. student support.

Submit to Parent24 by Respublica Student Living

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