Mental illness tends to manifest at varsity student age - psychiatrist

The news of the death of a Witwatersrand student who jumped from a residential building in Braamfontein and succumbed to her death sent shockwaves and reopened up discussions of mental disorders.

According to reports, 19-year-old Kago Moeng spent several hours on the edge of the six-story building with several students encouraging her to jump - before finally making the fatal leap.

Africa Melane, standing in for Eusebius McKaiser, was joined in studio by guests for a discussion on tertiary students who are battling depression.

Tshegofatso Ubisi, Wits Medical Student chair, and a third-year medical student says there various challenges facing students. The most prominent are academic stress, finances, gender-based harm and racial discrimination on campus.

In relation to academics, we have ridiculously high working hours and workloads, especially the health sciences students, who work in hospitals from 8 to 5 daily and are still expected to engage with the work and study efficiently.

Tshegofatso Ubisi, Wits Medical Student Council chair, and a third-year medical student

Ubisi goes on to say that when lookings at Wits specifically, there is very little learning support.

Students from rural and poorer backgrounds are largely at a disadvantage, she adds. They are often unfamiliar with things such as computers and can also find language a challenge. This adds further pressure to them, she says.

On a general basis the stress levels and pressure placed on students is immense. Students have very little opportunity to speak about how difficult it is to be a student especially when they are the beacon of hope for their community or family.

Zamo Mbele, clinical psychologist and Sadag board member

Dr Mashadi Motlana, a specialist psychiatrist, says the age of vulnerability for most serious mental illnesses is around the time most students begin university.

It is at that the age group where a serious mental illness may start to manifest is around this age group.

Dr Mashadi Motlana, specialist psychiatrist

One of the most stressful life events is migration, says Motlana. Often students have to uproot themselves from where they come from to another town, or country in order to pursue their studies.

Such events may trigger mental illness in someone who is already vulnerable, she explains.

Depression isn't the only diagnosis in which people may commit suicide. Depression may be part of another mental illness.

Dr Mashadi Motlana, specialist psychiatrist

Motlana says depression is defined when an individual experiences a low mood for at least a two week period without lifting despite any positive events.

For more on how to identify signs of depression listen to clip below:


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