By Siziwe Ntyinkala
Remember when you were younger and all you desired was to attend university? Great news – you have arrived, and you can accomplish everything that you set your mind to. Harsh reality? Full disclosure – with all the demands of varsity life, it is more a nightmare than a dream. Academics? Social life? Finances? Very important, but all that matters is your mental wellness.
Due to the responsibilities and an absence of mental awareness in students, particularly first years from disadvantaged backgrounds, it is easy for them to experience mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. As a result, a third-year psychology student, Siyabonga Kubheka, noted the importance of promoting student mental health as part of off-campus-based mental wellness programmes through Incoko.
“Incoko was inspired by the words of Miss Ayanda Mlatsha and Mr Avela Wana at the PSA central housing committee’s mental health awareness event in September 2021 at 3 on mil residence. I have always wanted to have a safe space where black people, particularly the young, can voice out their personal issues. At first, I thought 10 on smart students would undermine the notion, but to my surprise, participation has been consistently growing, with the support of my team, people are finding healing and the knowledge they require. Which motivated me to put in more effort. I want Incoko to flourish and expand outside of 10 on smart. Even when I graduate from Nelson Mandela University, I want Incoko to go on as a culture for future generations. Incoko is not mine, but ours” says Siyabonga Kubheka during our interview.
Incoko interactions nurtured the warmth of family love and unity – family, like branches on a tree, spreads in several parts, but the roots remain as one. As a result, even students who have relocated to other residences return every Sunday to attend Incoko, reflecting the spirit of holding together in laughter and tears.
Mental illnesses are sometimes unavoidable. Help is available. Keep in touch, ask for help, and always spread love and kindness. Remember it starts with you.
Photo credit: Nhlanhla Sangweni