20 July 2022 | Story Anthony Mthembu | Photo Supplied
Tshepang Mahlatsi- Founder of Next Chapter.

“For people who do not receive any incentive for the work they do, when the universe awards and recognises their work, that is the best form of payment,” says Tshepang Mahlatsi. Mahlatsi, a student from the University of the Free State (UFS) who was recently honoured for his advocacy work at the first Annual Free State Premier’s Top 50 Most Inspirational Youth Awards.

The award ceremony, which took place at the Bloemfontein Civic Theatre on 1 July 2022, honoured several young people from the Free State who are committed to doing great work in society. The ceremony celebrated these young people in 13 categories including sports, international relations, education, entertainment, and religion. Mahlatsi made it to the top 50 from more than 1 500 nominations. He was recognised and awarded in the community development category for his work in a mental health advocacy organisation he founded, called Next Chapter. 

The Next Chapter initiative

Next Chapter is a non-profit organisation which aims to raise awareness on mental health issues, specifically at UFS. “Next Chapter started from my own personal struggles with mental health while I was pursuing my studies at the university,’’ Mahlatsi says. His experience with mental health allowed him to identify a need for conversations regarding mental health, hence Next Chapter. Mahlatsi says the organisation aims to, “make as much noise as possible about the availability of resources, encourage people to be as proactive as possible as far as their mental health is concerned and to destigmatise mental health”.

Future endeavors

Mahlatsi is planning to hold a seminar which involves various institutions of higher learning coming together to discuss mental health. This is an initiative he hopes will ultimately create safe spaces for people to share their journeys. 

Mahlatsi believes “this award is a reminder that even though I am not getting paid for my work in this organisation, I am doing the right thing”.

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