18 June 2024 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo iStock
Mental health 2024
The University of the Free State celebrates Youth Month by promoting mental health, inspired by the resilient spirit of 1976.

To commemorate Youth Month 2024, the University of the Free State (UFS) highlights the strides made by its youth in addressing mental health challenges. The Department of Student Counselling and Development (SCD) plays a crucial role in empowering students to be well-being warriors, drawing inspiration from the resilience and determination of the youth of 1976.

The spirit of 1976

This year marks the 48th anniversary of the Soweto Uprising, where youth bravely protested against apartheid's oppressive education system, igniting a movement for freedom and justice in South Africa. As we commemorate National Youth Day on 16 June 2024, with the theme “Actively advancing socioeconomic gains of our democracy,” we reflect on this legacy and celebrate 30 years of freedom by empowering today’s youth to overcome modern challenges. This aligns with the UFS’s commitment to Vision 130, which emphasises care, well-being, and inclusivity, creating a supportive environment for teaching, learning, and community engagement.

Empowering students for mental well-being

Dr Munita Dunn-Coetzee, Director of SCD at UFS, underscores the department’s mission: “Student Counselling and Development aims to implement holistic mental health services that promote student well-being and assist students to flourish. We want students to become Well-being Warriors, raising awareness and providing education about what mental health really means, and how it contributes to overall well-being. Our goal is to enhance students' resilience through a variety of support services.”

SCD’s empowering role is realised through an array of services including self-help materials, workshops and group and individual therapy sessions. These initiatives are designed to foster a compassionate and caring environment conducive to mental well-being.

Success stories

The impact of SCD is best illustrated through the transformation seen in students who have utilised its resources. Dr Dunn-Coetzee recounts: “A success story is when you start seeing a behaviour change – the way a student looks, dresses, talks, the sparkle in their eye returning. This positive transformation is often shared with peers, creating a ripple effect of empowerment and resilience.”

One SCD influencer who acts as a Well-being Warrior, Tsholofelo Mahamotse, reflects on her journey: “Utilising the university’s student counselling services has profoundly empowered me to address my mental health challenges. The resources and support available provided a safe space to express my concerns and work through them with professional guidance. This support has not only helped me navigate difficult times but also fostered personal growth and a deeper understanding of self-care.”

Comprehensive approach to student support

SCD offers a spectrum of essential services for student well-being, including individual psychotherapy and group workshops on stress management, self-esteem, and emotional intelligence; support for developing key personality traits and professional skills; career guidance through psychometric tools; and academic support to enhance study skills and manage test anxiety and time effectively.

Empowerment through support

Mahamotse urges fellow students: “I encourage you to take full advantage of the mental health services our university provides. Seeking help is a sign of strength, and utilising these resources can make a tremendous difference in your overall well-being. Support is just a step away.”

As UFS commemorates Youth Month, it celebrates not just the legacy of past youth movements but also the present-day efforts of youth who continue to build a better future through resilience, courage, and empowerment.

Celebrating Youth Month at UFS

  • Community Engagement Office: Youth Day Celebration 
Date: 21 June 2024
Time: 09:00–14:00
Venue: Lusaka Community Hall, Qwaqwa
Topics: Gender-based violence; bullying; LGBTQ, legislative framework, substance abuse, crime, school dropout; teenage pregnancy, youth unemployment, and child-headed households.

Services: Contraceptives, sexually transmitted illness treatment, voluntary medical male circumcision, and referrals.

For more information, contact Moodi Matsoso at matsosoMS@ufs.ac.za. 

  • Career Pathway

The Career Services Office offers a programme to enhance the employability of registered students. Upon completion, students earn five badges reflecting their competency and work-readiness.

For more information, contact Belinda Janeke at JanekeB@ufs.ac.za. 

  • FutureLEAD Challenge 

The FutureLEAD Challenge (FLC) is an online, voluntary leadership development programme available to all undergraduate and postgraduate students across UFS’s three campuses. The programme lasts four to seven months and utilises Blackboard for blended learning.

For more information, contact René Pelser at PelserR@ufs.ac.za.

  • Entrepreneurship talk and #YouthMonth Mingle

The Centre for Graduate Support will host a #YouthMonth Mingle where postgraduate students will discuss their studies and discover funding opportunities.

For more information, contact Naomi Haupt at DeValdoNE@ufs.ac.za 

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