Students are sick with mental health challenges

Johannesburg – Mental health is an emerging problem across the higher education sector, according to student accommodation group Respublica Student Living.

Millet Nkanyane, ResLife manager at Respubl ica Student Living, said students’ mental health in the Covid-19 environment has been further impacted by loss of income in their families due to job losses, grief after deaths among those dearest to them, and academic pressure with the move to online learning.

“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, as a result of the pandemic and its impact, all in addition to navigating their way through the challenges of tertiary education,” said Nkanyane.

The company has student residences in Johannesburg, Midrand, Pretoria, Bloemfontein and Cape Town.

The SA Anxiety and Depression Group said more than half a million people had sought help since the nationwide lockdown took effect, noting that it had received 501 412 calls for help between March 2020 and last month, and an additional 101 387 suicide helpline calls.

Puleng Segalo, a psychology professor in the College of Human Sciences at Unisa, said: “Institutions of higher learning have, just like other sectors, been greatly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As a result, both students and staff have been left battling with mental health issues.”

Segalo added that both students and staff had to worry about their wellbeing and that of their loved ones, while also having to think about their studies and performing well.

“Staff had to worry about being able to provide quality education on platforms that some of them were unfamiliar with. Change, which is abrupt and unplanned for, generally brings uncertainty in most people’s lives.”

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