Combatting Mental Health Issues in South African Learners

24 May Combatting Mental Health Issues in South African Learners

Mental health issues are prevalent to the point where at least one in every three South Africans suffer from one of its manifestations during their lifetime – which is higher than any other middle- and lower-income country. This is because South Africa’s post-apartheid socioeconomic and cultural context contributes to inequality, with South Africa being the holders of the lowest Gini-Coefficient index (inequality index measure) in the world, allowing for the perpetuation of a vicious cycle that affects peoples’ mental health.

Studies show a correlation between poverty and the risk of mental health issues, especially when paired with low levels of education. Education needs to be addressed in South Africa, as it is the gateway to economic and social emancipation. It aids in the alleviation of insecurity and hopelessness, which both feed into the prevalence of mental health issues. However, studies also show that interventions aimed at the improvement of childhood development and educational outcomes of youth that live in poverty have had some success – which ties into the work done at Tomorrow Trust.

The Tomorrow Trust supports orphaned and vulnerable children and youth with achieving their educational goals, from primary school until they are alumni, post-tertiary. Tomorrow Trust has adopted a holistic model that encapsulates both academics and psycho-social support to ensure that South African children and youth receive the education they deserve. This is achieved through a HAND UP approach that empowers children and youth through equipping them with the tools and skills they need to thrive, self-sustain, and inadvertently become proactive members of society.

During a beneficiary’s time with Tomorrow Trust, they are encouraged to give back to the younger children and their communities. Tomorrow Trust believes that stronger community ties will nurture a virtuous cycle through the cultivation of a stronger South Africa, through increased education rates, a thriving economy, increased employment prospects, and consequently, a decline in poverty rates.

The Tomorrow Trust aims to play our part in helping our beneficiaries navigate instances whereby mental health issues may arise.  Our Psycho-social Programme aims to target core developmental milestones and life skills within each phase of education, supporting learners’ and youth’s abilities to tackle challenges – a modelinformed by Erik Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development across an individual’s lifespan. In the instances whereby learners need more help, they have access to it through our organisation.

Naturally, there is a lot more that needs to be done to attend to mental health awareness and treatment in South Africa. South Africa lacks many of the resources and policies that are necessary to combat mental health properly, is riddled with stigmas surrounding mental health, and relies heavily on traditional medicinal practices – which often furthers ostracization amongst communities. However, if we all start doing our parts and engage in the conversations, we can help create a better South Africa for the leaders of tomorrow.

Sources utilised

Jack H, Wagner RG, Petersen I, et al. Closing the mental health treatment gap in South Africa: a review of costs and cost-effectiveness. Glob Health Action. 2014:7. 2014

Patel V, Kleinman A, The shocking state of mental health in South Africa in 2019. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 2003: 81 (8). 2019. pp. 603 – 615

Written by Otshepeng Buckwalter   Communications Intern at Tomorrow Trust

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