20 October 2022 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Valentino Ndaba
World Mental Health Day
The UFS community, in partnership with various stakeholders, commemorated World Mental Health Day on 10 October 2022.

About 400 million people globally suffer from mental or neurological disorders and psychosocial problems. Mental disorders, much like physical ones, differ in severity. The Department of Health distinguishes between transient (such as an acute stress disorder), periodic (such as bipolar disorder, characterised by periods of exaggerated elation followed by periods of depression), and long-lasting and progressive (such as Alzheimer’s disease) disorders.

Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and job stress are the most common conditions. It is not only the individuals suffering from these problems who are affected, but also their families, co-workers, and the broader community. An interplay between biological, psychological, social, and environmental factors results in mental health conditions.

Mobilising efforts in support of mental health
Internationally, the month of October has been declared Mental Health Awareness Month, with 10 October being the day on which Mental Health Day is observed. The objective is to educate the public about mental health and to reduce the stigma that people with mental illness are often subjected to. To mark the day, the University of the Free State (UFS) Student Counselling and Development (SCD) Office, KovsieHealth, and the student mental health advocacy organisation, Next Chapter, held an activation at the Thakaneng Bridge on the Bloemfontein Campus. This followed a silent walk from the campus’ main gate to the bridge.

Chairperson of Next Chapter, Lehlogonolo Sebjetseba, emphasised the significance of commemorating Mental Health Day. “The importance of observing this day is to continue raising awareness about mental health and to further reduce the stigma around mental health. We did this by introducing students to different psychosocial support organisations such as Alnisa Continua, Panda, the Befrienders, and more. These organisations cater specifically for students’ mental well-being,” said the second-year Industrial Psychology student.

Raise awareness of mental health issues
On 12 October 2022, the Division of Organisational Development and Employee Well-Being, together with the Department of Human Resources (HR), presented a Mental Health talk by award-winning journalist and author, Marion Scher, on the Bloemfontein Campus. The talk touched on preventive mental health interventions, breaking the silence around mental health issues, and guidelines on how to provide support to those affected by mental health problems.

Scher further explained bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, as well as the difference between a bad day and clinical depression. Guidance was provided on avenues to explore when seeking mental health assistance, and advice was offered on what to do if you think someone is having suicidal ideation. In addition, the division has made available the Mental Health Awareness Month Toolkit, which employees can access for free online.

Mental health is a global priority
The overall objective of World Mental Health Day is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world. This year’s national theme is ‘Mental Health and Well-being for All: Promoting Mental Health in Physical and Virtual Spaces’, which is based on the global theme: ‘Making Mental Health and Well-Being for All a Global Priority’. This is in line with Sustainable Development Goal number three, which focuses on good health and well-being.

SCD and HR will continue to host events throughout the year that encourage students and staff to protect and improve their mental health. These are some of the upcoming events:

Health Survival Guide webinar (students):
Date: 21 October 2022
Time: 10:00
Venue: Blackboard

Self-care webinar (students):
Date: 1 November 2022
Time: 12:00-14:00
Venue: Blackboard


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