26 August 2020 | Story Xolisa Mnukwa | Photo Pixabay

Mental health is a crucial component for a healthy and happy life, as it directly affects how we think, feel, and behave. Mental health also determines how we manage stress, cope with challenges, relate to others, and contribute to our community.  

As noted in the University of the Free State (UFS) #WellbeingWarriors campaign, heightened negative emotions during the COVID-19 pandemic are normal. You might experience feelings of anxiety, fear, sadness, helplessness, anger, and confusion. Your thoughts can also increase negative emotions, but thoughts are not always reality. Therefore, it is best to educate yourself.

According to Dr Melissa Barnaschone – UFS Director for Student Counselling and Development (SCD), the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) will establish and enhance the mental-health support services offered by SCD and Careways as from 1 September 2020 in the following ways: 

- SADAG will extend SCD services by offering a dedicated UFS student mental health careline, which is free and accessible 24/7 to all UFS students. This will ensure that a constant means of mental-health support is available to UFS students. 

- Careways will serve as an extension of the emergency services offered by SCD.

Dr Barnaschone further explained that SADAG is working closely with the university to assist identified students, who will benefit from longer-term counselling offered by the SCD in order to continue with their therapeutic process. SADAG will also offer further support to students while they wait for their appointments with SCD.

This helpline will provide containment, crisis intervention, and support, as well as referrals to mental-health professionals and other psychosocial resources for all students on all the UFS campuses. 
students also have the option to contact SADAG by email or SMS for counselling assistance. 

Counselling for both the SADAG and Careways services will be available in the various South African languages.

Dr Barnaschone reiterated that the SCD will continue with all the services and resources currently offered by the department, and that these additional counselling services will serve as an extension of the SCD, assisting them with patient capacity and reducing the waiting period for students to receive adequate mental-health support and counselling. 

“As we are all navigating the uncertainties and changes that are taking place within our environments, it is vital to remember that we are all human and that we are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious. We need to keep reminding ourselves and each other that this is not a hopeless situation, and when we feel that we need help, all we need to do is ask for it. We are all here to support each other,” encouraged Dr Barnaschone.

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