Student Wellness Services and Mental Health Awareness

“Your mind is part of everything that you do.” Mental health is a vital part of the well-being of an individual and importance should be placed on what sort of services the University provides for students who are experiencing problems in said area.

By Ilham Choonara

Staff Writer

With October being mental health awareness month, it is not only pertinent to increase our daily awareness of mental health in our lives, but also to raise awareness of the services at our disposal for relief to life’s issues and stressors. In an especially stress-inducing context, such as university for young adults, UCT’s Student Wellness Service (SWS) is one of several structures available for students to receive support with challenges they face.

In recognition of World Mental Health Day on the 10th of October, the SWS organised the Run/Walk 4 Mental Health in which participants ran or walked for 1.5, 3 or 6 kilometres around the UCT Rugby field. Before the start of the event, the SWS executive director spoke on the importance of being mindful of your health. Awareness means not only being aware of mental health existing for others, but also aware of your own emotional and physical state. This emphasizes the known phrase “there is no health without mental health.” An SWS psychiatrist echoed this sentiment, saying, “We are mindful; we are not alone.” The event was attended by 250 participants and appropriate COVID protocols were put in place.

UCT’s Student Wellness Service offers health services as well as counselling services. The SWS stated that there has been an overload of student requests for sessions and support in high-demand times such as the exam season. These periods of high demand usually render many students unable to access the services offered due to the sheer volume of requests. Therefore, the Independent  Counselling and Advisory Services (ICAS) On-The-Go Crisis App has recently been created as well as a 24-hour phone counselling service offered to try and reduce accessibility problems. The on-the-go app provides secure and live text messaging with an ICAS professional, or the option to call a professional for free. These features are offered in 11 languages and ideally at any time. The App also has stress assessments, articles, and short videos providing health and wellness aid. UCT students can download this app on the Google Play Store and Apple Stores and register using the company code: UCT001. 

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group’s UCT Student Careline can be used as an additional measure to help ease the overload on the SWS in related issues. SWS has urged students to make use of this especially if they are on the waiting list for a counselling appointment and require immediate support or guidance. To book a counselling or psychotherapy appointment through SWS, students can follow the link below (some of the options offered are charged at a fixed rate per hour): 

https://outlook.office365.com/owa/calendar/STUDENTWELLNESSSERVICEPSYCHOLOGICALSERVICES@mscloudtest.uct.ac.za/bookings/

One in six South Africans are faced with mental health challenges. Additionally, academic stress and emotional distress are experiences which should not be stigmatized and no one should have to suffer alone. Mental health awareness and support services are evidently needed in quantities larger than those currently catered for. Awareness of one’s own wellbeing can aid all to live more tolerant of the many people living with ill mental health, and become more compassionate people in an often stressful world.

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