Mental Health Support Available For Off-Campus Students


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Its easy to get overwhelmed with university. HEAL SA has identified a gap in the metal health support services available to students and offer free confidential help which students can access from their phones. 
 


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Online education has been hailed for its flexibility, accessibility and cost-effectiveness. Students can access course materials and lectures on their own time, allowing them to fit their education around work, family commitments, or other responsibilities. 

They often access their course material and lectures online meaning that they don’t have to leave their homes eliminating the need to pay transport costs which potentially saves them thousands of rands monthly. 

However, when discussing online learning, the impact it has on students is often overlooked. 

Students living off-campus may face unique mental health challenges due to factors like social isolation, academic pressures, and limited access to support systems.

HEAL SA is a non-profit organisation dedicated to improving access to mental health services in South Africa, with a particular focus on Black women and youth. 

There can be a stigma surrounding mental health care, and some students might hesitate to seek help due to confidentiality concerns. To address these challenges, HEAL SA offers free and confidential teletherapy services to university students nationwide.

These services include a helpline for crisis intervention and a text-based WhatsApp line for ongoing support.

CEO of HEAL SA Mpadi Makgalo revealed that studies indicated that more than 14,000 students have died due to suicide. Around 30% of students currently enrolled at universities in South Africa have thought about suicide and around 6% of students have attempted to commit suicide. 

Makgalo says the stress of academics and financial pressures are the main causes of this. They add that the move of students from rural areas to big cities without real support structures in place can also contribute to mental health challenges. 

All of these factors point to the need for mental health support services. 

We at Heal SA are putting a lot of effort into saying how can we support students and how can we make it accessible and also free you know because one of the main issues or main reasons that students are not seeking this type of help is the fact that it is expensive and it's not accessible

Makgalo acknowledges universities offer some support, but it's inadequate. HEAL SA exists to fill this gap, providing dedicated phone and text support lines with qualified therapists accessible to off-campus students.

Research shows students from rural areas, LGBTQI+ students, and first-generation students struggle most with the transition and challenges of university life. Technology can break down stigma. Students can access confidential help discreetly through their phones without needing to be seen entering a therapist's office.

but know that if I am on my phone and I am chatting with you and nobody knows who and what am I talking about I'm getting helped at the same time and also I can do it in the comfort of my room and I don't have to be seen walking into a therapist or a counsellor's office

Makgalo adds that conversations within communities are crucial emphasising the need to normalise mental health discussions and dismantle the perception that seeking help is a sign of weakness.

I think it starts within our communities...we have to dismantle the stigma we have around mental health, once one declares or talks about their mental health they seem as being weak...and something is wrong with you

HEAL SA wants to increase mental health literacy by training communities and schools. They believe this could make mental health resources accessible, acceptable, and free for all.

Makgalo adds that Individuals may not recognise signs of being overwhelmed. They say friends and family should be aware of changes in behaviour and intervene when necessary. Signs of needing help include neglecting routines, withdrawing from activities, and feeling down most of the time.

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