The month of October has been declared Mental Health Awareness Month by the South African government to raise awareness and to address the stigma and discrimination around mental health. Nelson Mandela University through a partnership with Emthonjeni Students Wellness Team, is highlighting and discussing issues around Mental Health among students of the university. This is done through a monthly webinar on different topics within the mental health spectrum.

The Mental Health spectrum covers conditions surrounding depression, anxiety, substance abuse and task-related stress. These are not only the conditions that affect students in higher learning institutions but also paid professionals, the unemployed, as well as secondary school students. The government’s COVID-19 response of a mandatory lockdown has amplified issues surrounding Mental Health within families and communities, often limiting their abilities to fulfil their normal day to day obligations. Nelson Mandela University has partnered with the Emthonjeni Students Wellness Team to help provide students with much needed psychological and emotional support through digital platforms such as the Microsoft Teams app.

Through a weekly schedule, the initiative discusses a variety of ideas ranging from COVID-19 mental challenges, fear and anxiety, burnout and mindfulness, resilience  in emotionally draining times, student life and depression, toxic relationships and mental health, substance use, as well as grief during the pandemic. Students are given an opportunity to download the app, join teams through a link and discuss issues of interest to them. This allows students to express themselves in a safe space.

By Lerato Nyathi

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