Taking counselling services to student residences

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Plans to launch a “Res Talks” programme - an initiative to take counselling services to student residences - are at an advanced stage.

This is according to Ms Thobeka Msengana, Senior Psychologist and SCU Acting Manager.

“We want to take our services to where students are most comfortable - inside their residences,” she said.          

This intervention comes as mental health issues are being flagged as a growing global problem among students.

The unit is based in Alice and East London and comprises registered psychologists as well as intern psychologists who are doing their final year in Social Work. The core function of the unit is to provide mental health support and promote student wellness.

The counselling team is aware that most students are not familiar with services provided by psychologists. “The majority of our students come from rural backgrounds and are not used to seeing a psychologist.  When we go into residences we believe we will provide a safe space for talking about personal issues,” explained Msengana.

Res Talks will focus on various topics related to mental health and psychosocial matters. “We plan to have these talks at least once every month, starting with first years. Research shows that when students are well adjusted in their first year at university, chances of becoming better students and graduates increase. We want to give our students a solid foundation and create a culture of seeking help”, she said.

The overall objective is “to release balanced graduates into the workplace.”

Much more than a counselling unit

In addition to looking after students’ mental well-being, the SCU has several other wellness interventions aimed at assisting students with their academic, social life and job placements.

These include:

  • First Year Experience Programme that assists first years to adjust to university life
  • First Year Mentorship Programme
  • Graduate Placements
  • Career Guidance
  • Study skills workshops
  • Gender-based violence dialogues

The unit also provides food parcels to unfunded students.

Ms Zoliswa Mafanya, SCU Coordinator, said the mentorship programme involves 30 final and postgraduate students from East London and Alice campuses who are trained to provide academic support and look into the psychosocial challenges that might affect first year students. “The programme supports and empowers students. It aims to build a university community that supports one another,” said Mafanya. 


By Aretha Linden