17 February 2020 | Story Xolisa Mnukwa | Photo Supplied
Student Counselling staff members
UFS SCD urges students to make use of the mental-health student toolkit to take control of their wellbeing and happiness and enjoy a compelling student life.

The University of the Free State’s (UFS) Student Counselling and Developmentnt (SCD) was recognised and applauded at the 2019 annual conference of the SSouthern African Association for Counselling and Development in Higher Education (SAACDHE), where they won the SAACDHE best region award for presenting the UFS Mental Health Student Toolkit at the conference, and for being active in the training and development of the UFS SCD team.

UFS Student Counselling and Development win at SAACDHE conference

The UFS, which was the only member institution of the Free State region, maintained vitality and relevance in the work they produced, competing against a number of student counselling centres in regions across South Africa, including KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Vaal North-West, Gaunolanga Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Swaziland, and Botswana.

Students to take control of their wellbeing into their own hands

With the vision to promote, enable, and optimise students’ self-direction, the SCD launched the first edition of the student toolkit on Friday, 23 August 2019 – in an effort to assist students in coping with challenges they face in their personal lives during their period of study at the UFS. 

According to Counselling Psychologist in the SCD and compiler of the UFS Mental Health Student Toolkit, Lize Wolmarans, “The UFS Mental Health Student Toolkit is about putting the control of your wellbeing and happiness in your own hands. Taking responsibility for your mental health and understanding that it's the key to success in your personal, academic, and professional life as a student.” 

Dr Melissa Barnaschone, Director of the SCD, further explained that, “This is the culture our department wishes to instil in students – by building a holistic sense of wellbeing into life on campus. The toolkit was developed to empower students by providing increased access to mental-health resources and support.” 

“We have big plans for the toolkit, one of which is to develop it into an interactive app for students. This will enable students to interact with the information in more depth. Secondly, the toolkit will be expanded and adapted annually as we get feedback from students. We will add new relevant topics and continue to improve the overall layout and content. We are also able to learn very valuable information from the topics accessed online – we thus know which topics are the most/least relevant to our students,” Wolmarans added.

UFS Mental Health Student Toolkit a winning formula for student wellness

As a result of the exemplary methods of student counselling in the toolkit, a number of universities and institutions of higher education within South Africa have expressed interest in buying the toolkit to benchmark and prototype the effective student mental-health and wellbeing approaches portrayed in the toolkit.  Wolmarans further explained that, “This is South Africa’s first mental-health guide for university students, and other institutions recognised the potential advantages of purchasing a finished product instead of having to create their own toolkit.”

At the 2019 conference, Tobias van den Bergh, Counselling Psychologist at SCD (Qwaqwa Campus), was elected as Research, Training, and Development coordinator for SAACDHE.

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