We have first aid kits for our physical health, but what about our mental health?
When SADAG released stats on the state of the youth and mental health crisis in South Africa, we were shocked to find that over 20% of 18-year-olds have attempted suicide while 1 in every 4 university students have been diagnosed with depression. This has much to do with students who find the transition from high school to university challenging and end up feeling anxious, stressed and often depressed, as they struggle to deal with the pressures of tertiary education.
Read more here: 1 in 4 SA varsity students have been diagnosed with depression
Tina Chan, a former student at the University of Waterloo in Canada, faced much of the same challenges with her mental health after high school.
"In high school I was a very high achieving student, got good grades, et cetera. But in first year at university, I was not the best performing student anymore because everyone in my cohort were also top of their classes at high school. Because of all these stresses, I developed generalised anxiety disorder and major depression."
Chan received treatment but felt university resources could improve to guide students through the transition.
And with WHO revealing that half of all mental health conditions start by 14 years old but most cases are undetected and untreated, there is clearly room for not only intervention, but early intervention.
So Chan created the Panic, Anxiety and Stress Support – or simply PASS – kit, which is now given to every new student at her university.
The kit includes items to help relieve anxiety, like a foam stress toy, as well as flash cards based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
One card asks, “Have you eaten in the last 3 hrs?”
“Don’t just eat simple carbs. Maybe eat some nuts or a piece of fruit until mealtime. Low blood sugar disrupts focus.”
Another reminds students, “Being busy isn’t the same as being productive.”
The kit is a helpful took but not so much a solution to completely tackling mental health, and students should always ask for help if they’re feeling alone and depressed. But it certainly is a good resource and one we could all use, no matter what stage we are in our lives.
I mean, who doesn’t need a gentle reminder every now and then, in the hustle and bustle of life, to step back and just take care of themselves?
How did you help your child cope with the transition from high school to university? Do you have a child with anxiety and/or depression? Tell us your family's story and we may publish it. Do let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous.