10 June 2019 | Story Zama Feni | Photo Zama Feni
UFS medical students displaying multi-coloured mismatched socks as they heeded the call of the #CrazySocks4Doc campaign to raise awareness about mental health in the medical profession.

Hundreds of pairs of socks were dished out to medical students last week during the campus launch of the #CrazySocks4Docs (#CS4D) awareness campaign that seeks to help break the silence around mental-health illness in the medical profession.
More than 600 medical students from the University of the Free State (UFS) School of Internal Medicine heeded the call by the non-governmental organisation, Ithemba Foundation, whose mission is to educate the public around mental health – specifically depression and related diseases such as anxiety disorders – and to support research.

On Monday, 3 June 2019, the Ithemba Foundation launched the CS4D campaign countrywide at all tertiary institutions with medical schools to help break the silence around mental health in the medical profession. 

“We have ensured a sponsorship of 10 000 pairs of mismatched socks for medical students, to be distributed according to student numbers at each medical campus,” Ithemba Foundation said in a statement.

Students waking up to the call

A large number of UFS medical students gladly embraced the call and helped themselves to pairs of multi-coloured socks at the James Moroka Building foyer on the Bloemfontein Campus.

Judy Modise, a second-year medical student, said she was impressed with the initiative.
“I think this is a very interesting campaign, as we all know the devastating effects of mental health in society, and more specifically on doctors,” she said.

UFS has risen to the challenge

In a widely published opinion piece on mental health in October last year, UFS Rector and Vice-Chancellor Prof Francis Petersen, stated that one in every three South Africans suffers from some form of mental disorder.

He mentioned that, “The university has just released a first draft of its first-ever Student Mental Health Policy.”

“This policy seeks to redress the inequalities and disadvantages created by prejudice and discrimination against persons with mental-health disabilities and difficulties,” said Prof Petersen.
Destigmatising mental health is key

The Ithemba Foundation further stated that, “It is critical that we start the conversation around mental health in the health profession – especially among the next generation of medical professionals, as the stigma surrounding the illness in doctors persists. Wearing mismatched, brightly-coloured socks may seem like a weird place to begin, but to care for others, we also have to care for ourselves and each other.”

The purpose of the campaign is to create awareness about the highly stressful nature of the medical profession; the need for doctors to seek help when needed, both mental and physical; the need for those in the health profession to help one another and the need to reshape the culture of the health care industry and to ensure that you will have a new mindset concerning your own mental health. 

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