By Uyanda Ntloko, Journalism and Media Studies student
Rhodes University is committed to providing a safe and conducive environment for its students. It is also working to provide a nurturing student support system and a diverse array of residential, sporting, cultural, and leadership opportunities to promote all-round development of its students. Last week, the Division of Student Affairs (DSA) in collaboration with the Student Representative Council, held a Mental health and Wellness Awareness Week at the Steve Biko Lawns.
The University has adopted a framework to operationalise the developmental needs of students in a holistic manner. This new approach encompasses the spiritual, mental, social, physical, and emotional (SMSPE) domains of wellness. The Mental Health Awareness Week was held in line with this approach.
DSA Director, Nomangwane Mrwetyana said: “After the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw a gradual rise in the number of students that are struggling with mental health and wellbeing difficulties and our counselling centre was not coping in terms of capacity. We had to reignite a different approach and model to deal with mental health difficulties on campus. We have now shifted to a preventative model and approach, as our intentions are to prevent and manage mental health for students to live a healthy lifestyle in a healthy environment.”
Mrwetyana gave a significant description of the newly profound approach to mental health and wellbeing. “The new approach that we have taken is an integrated, holistic approach to wellness, encouraging our students to look after themselves and one another in five dimensions of wellness,” she said. She said the five dimensions are: social wellness, where students have the ability to establish relationships, as most times these issues are most likely and relevantly much easier if one student shares his/her thoughts with a friend than a professional expects.
Emotional wellness is the second dimension, as it speaks to the ability of awareness of one’s feelings and how to manage them. Physical wellness is all about encouraging students to look after themselves physically, and this has to do with their healthy food, exercises, etc. Spiritual wellness, a fourth dimension, speaks to having a meaningful purpose in life, and this is not about having to go to church only. It is also about having to have a higher power of your own understanding and find meaningful purpose from a spiritual perspective. The last dimension is the mental wellness of students. Mrwetyana said this dimension speaks to students’ academic life and their ability to be curious, read and learn. “We have an acronym that we use for these dimensions, the #SMSPE, which covers the five dimensions,” she added.
Mrwetyana emphasised social wellness and said the university needs to create more spaces on campus for students to socialize and engage in recreational activities. During Mental Health Awareness Week, the university worked with stakeholders such as GARDMED, Higher Health and South African Police Service. “In terms of wellness, we have trained wellness leaders, who are an extension of the services we provide to students, our ears on the ground, who guide and make awareness of accessible services to students”, said Mrwetyana.