Cape Town - Videos of students screaming outside of their residence windows in the dead of the night as they prepare for exams taking place next week, are making the rounds on social media in what appears to be scheduled screaming sessions where students can let out their frustration.
This is a stressful time of year for many students as they struggle to balance studying, academic pressure, as well as their mental and physical health.
To try to alleviate this pressure, students are partaking in collective cathartic screaming sessions where they scream from the top of their lungs mid-study.
The tradition at UCT has become a common occurrence over the past four to five years at the first-tier residences (first-time students and those that are usually under the age of 21) but recently, second and third tier residences have also joined.
One of the UCT students living in residence, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “The screaming sessions aim to allow students to release stress. It also allows students to cry out and release the burden, pressure and anxiety as a collective.
“This becomes symbolic as it illustrates that students are going through similar struggles, and screaming as a group gives one a sense of relief because, often, students bottle their struggles and do not talk to other students, especially during the exams.”
The sessions allow students to feel better without having to talk to other students and disclose their challenges and struggles. They remind them that it’s okay to feel anxious, stressed and pressured.
The student said: “The sessions also play an important role in rejuvenating students and refuelling their motivation as we begin to prepare for exams.
“The semester has so many challenges and it is vital to take a break and release the struggles that we have gone through, throughout the semester and have a clearer and less anxious mind to prepare for the exams.”
The House Committee plans the screaming sessions and communicates the details to the resident.
UCT students aren’t the only ones participating in this. Videos from others universities have also been posted on social media.
@khumithebish I could hear the pain in those screams . sounded delicious. #uct #capetown #exams #🇿![CDATA]>🇦 #campus ♬ original sound - Khumalo
@stylishpapi University students are not ok. #university #nmu #sauniversities #umgowo #academics #anixety #ticktocksa ♬ original sound - Stylish papi
Health Advocacy & Clinical Compliance South Africa founder, Rene Sparks sayidthe scheduled screaming was a great way for the students to release repressed emotions.
“The screaming therapy allows one to process negative or repressed emotion. It would therefore aid with the release of exam stress, though not so pleasant for the surrounding residents, but I think it's a great way to release what many of us have repressed while studying.
“The fact that it is scheduled and supported by many also shows a collective understanding that they are not alone and that is a positive mental health strategy as a space of loneliness can lend itself to more negativity and suicidal ideation. The scheduling also indicates a deep level of respect to other students and residents,” Sparks said.
“The screaming therapy helps as you need to let go, you cannot be overly aware of yourself, it requires digging deep into yourself to scream like that.
“The exercise is definitely helpful if practised correctly – they need to focus on the stressor and be intentional when releasing. It is a mindful practice, so breathing and visualisation would help to create balance and clear the mind.”
Sparks said a combination of meditative mantras and breathing exercises would complement the therapy.
“We need to invest in self-care and alternate practices to find deeper meaning, release repressed trauma and develop deeper connections with one’s self and others, to make meaningful, impactful contributions in these fast-paced, often unforgiving spaces.
“For those less appreciative of it, at least they know when it will take place and can brace themselves by sounding it out or not being on campus during the sessions, but it is important to find a positive outlet for this level of intense stress.
“Screaming therapy is one of many tools to manage stress, and I think it's great that people are looking into alternate methods of dealing with it.”
A 2022 study by the Wits/Medical Research Council Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit showed that South Africans suffer higher rates of probable depression and anxiety than other countries. However, only a quarter of those receive treatment.
The study, titled “The prevalence of probable depression and probable anxiety, and the associations with adverse childhood experiences and socio-demographics: A National Survey in South Africa”, states: “Despite the high prevalence of mental health problems across South Africa, few mental health services exist at primary health care facilities.
“Our data indicates that one in every four adults are likely to require mental health services, but it has been reported that only one in four South Africans with a severe mental disorder, or 27%, will receive treatment.”