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Men’s Mental health on campus: Breaking the silence

June 12, 2019 by optima

Male students are a forgotten demographic with their own mental health needs.

Millions of young people will shortly be commencing studies at universities and colleges across the country. This is a time of great hope, opportunity and excitement for most students. However some students face specific challenges which can result in poor mental health.

Indeed, the National College Health Assessment indicates that around one in four students suffer from a diagnosable mental illness, while a much greater proportion report feeling overwhelmed (around 70 percent) or very lonely (around 60 percent). This demands concerted action.

Gendered Differences

Men and women on campus experience mental health issues in different proportions. Women have higher rates of depression, anxiety and eating disorders. In contrast, men have higher rates of suicide, substance abuse, and are less likely to use official mental health services.

The state of the youth and mental health crisis in South Africa 2018

SADAG has released these figures:

  • 31.5% of teen suicide attempts required medical treatment;
  • 17.6% of teens had considered attempting suicide;
  • 1 in 4 university students had been diagnosed with depression;
  • Over 20% of 18-year-old’s had one or more suicide attempts;
  • According to the WHO, half of all mental health conditions start by 14 years of age but most cases are undetected and untreated;
  • Male youth die by suicide more than female youth;
  • 1 in 6 teens are/will be addicted to cannabis.

Throughout this year we have heard of more and more university students who don’t cope under the pressure and aren’t able to cope with their problems, which has resulted in many suicides on campus. University students experience depression, stress and anxiety every day – sometimes without any knowledge they are suffering from a mental illness.

Clinical psychologist and SADAG board member Zamo Mbele says, “Unfortunately this has led to many suicides which we can’t afford as a caring society.

“Depression does not discriminate” 

Depression does not discriminate – it can affect any race, age, gender or religion. It’s important that parents, teachers, grandparents, loved ones and entire communities know that depression can affect young people too, even a 6-year-old child.

It is important to know the signs and symptoms of depression, the suicide warning signs and how to get help before it is too late.

“From the hundreds of calls that SADAG receives every day, children, teens and young adults are dealing with many problems they feel they can’t handle,” says operations director Cassey Chambers.

The main triggers include relationship problemsfamily issuesabuseloss or grief and trauma. Other contributing factors include exam stresssubstance abusebullyinglearning difficultiesfinancial issues and chronic illness.

“The youth are not equipped with enough coping skills or support structures to handle the kind of problems that they have to deal with every day”, says Chambers.

By creating awareness and information we can educate more people on how to help young people in SA and get them help before it is too late.

Exam stress

“With the matric final exams about to start, as well as all other exams for other grades and at universities – students will be dealing with increased pressure and stress, on top of everything they have been dealing with throughout the year,” says Zamo Mbele.

The old African proverb that says it takes a village to raise a child is no truer than with mental health now. Empowering teachers, parents, grandparents, churches, friends and family about the issues of youth and mental health is critical if we want to be able to get young people help before it is too late, and help prevent youth suicides.

According to Celebrity and Youth Ambassador, Penny Lebyane, “Mental Health is currently a great challenge for the youth and we need ways to help them understand how the mind works and what help is available. Mental health is where it all starts and can end.”

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The Optima Psychiatric Hospital, a healing centre, situated in the Bloemfontein suburb, Hospitaalpark, accommodating 81 patients and is operated by a company consisting of nine partners, all Psychiatrists.

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