By Mental Health Information Centre Southern Africa
Attending university is an exciting time that allows for greater independence and memorable experience. It is also a key developmental period during which students are at increased risk for emotional and behavioural problems.
By learning more about the signs and symptoms of mental health problems, you’ll be better equipped to know what to do if you or a friend is in need of help. It is important to maintain self-care and find ways to manage stress.
Stressors that may affect students’ mental health and wellness
- Financial difficulties
- Academic pressures
- Relationship breakups
- No or limited support structure
- Medication, drug and alcohol use
- Inadequate sleep
These stressors may be associated with symptoms and anxiety, depressed moods and other mental health symptoms, which may all affect several life domains, including academic performance.
Building strong connections with others and knowing where to get help, can go a long way to helping students find their feet on campus.
Common warning of mental health conditions that should be taken seriously
- Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks
- Sudden overwhelming fear that gets in the where of normal functioning
- Repeated and excessive use of alcohol or drugs
- Drastic changes in mood, behaviour or personality
- No eating or binge-eating, vomiting or other excessive measures to lose weight
- Insomnia or oversleeping
- Restlessness and difficulty concentrating
- Seeing, hearing or believing things that are not real
- Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed
- Persistent physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
- Trying to harm yourself or thoughts of suicide
To prevent mental disorders from developing, balance your lifestyle by doing the following
- Eat healthy foods
- Get enough good quality sleep
- Set aside time for self-care
- Avoid alcohol, drugs, smoking, caffeine
- Seek support from family, friends and peers
- Create to-do list and tackle items one by one
- Explore time management strategies
What to do when you recognise these signs/symptoms in yourself or a friend
- Seek for help from a close family member, student counselling services on campus or in your residence. Reaching out for help is a sign of strength.
- Remember that we all have challenging times in life when we need to lean on someone for support.
- Save the contact details of campus mental health services/emergency services on your phone and make sure that you know how to access these services.
- Talk to your friend if you recognise these symptoms in their behaviour. TOJ
- Your university’s Student Support and Counselling Department
- University of Johannesburg PsyCaD 24hr Crisis Line: 082 054 1137
- University of the Witwatersrand 24hr LifeLine: 011 728 1347
- Akeso Psychiatric Helpline: 0861 435 787
- Lifeline: 011 728 1347
- SADAG Suicide Line: 0800 567 567
- SADAG 24 hr Helpline: 0800 121 314
- Rape Crisis 24 hr: 021 447 9762
- Mental Health Information Centre of SA: 021 938 9229 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- South African Depression and Anxiety Group Suicide Crisis Line: 0800 567 567 or SMS 31393
Content obtained from Mental Health Information Centre Southern Africa (www.mentalhealthsa.org.za).
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