Durban — A mental health expert says school leavers should apply enthusiasm and positive energy at the beginning of their new chapters that could enable them to navigate their educational paths and first jobs.
Community health and well-being lead at Anglo American Dr Alexandra Plowrights said adjusting to a new environment can be mentally and emotionally exhausting to the young people who sometimes find themselves feeling anxious and uncertain because of the pressure to fit in while trying to stay true to themselves.
“Many tertiary beginners face stages of buzzing nerves, and maybe even a pang of homesickness while trying to adapt to uncharted territories and independence. It is therefore important for first-year students to find their tribe which enables them to fuel their fun. Newcomers should always remember that everybody is as nervous as they are. Everyone feels the same way, and they’re also looking for friends,” said Dr Plowrights.
She said that beginners should schedule catch-up calls with friends back home if they are experiencing separation anxiety. “If you have a good relationship with your parents, ensure you maintain that. Reach out regularly on WhatsApp, or schedule calls. Your support systems are still in place even if you’re not physically in the same location,” she added.
According to TNS Foundation university drop-out rates in South Africa are between 50 and 60% of first-year students dropping out. TNS Foundation is a non-profit organisation, meant to reach out to students from underprivileged backgrounds, who have been given a chance at higher learning institutions.
Many students drop out due to work and family commitments. The demands of the job and families then affects their ability to commit to their studies.
Struggling to keep up with the work and passing courses can also be the cause for dropping out. Whereas, choosing the wrong course, personal emergencies and being unhappy with the university are also significant impacts in giving up.
Plowright furthermore said students should ensure they don’t associate themselves with negative coping strategies which can destroy their academic performance and reputation.
“Join clubs and get involved and in that way you can make friends with similar interests and ground yourself in those activities. Always remind yourselves of what you can bring to the environment, to friendships. There’s space for everyone.
“And from a self-care point of view, try to do activities that you know you enjoy, which remind you of home.
“If you have facilities for cooking, for instance, regularly cook a dish that comforts you. If you practise self-care, you’re less likely to drop into unhealthy coping habits. So don’t let your detours dim your light.” she said.
24-hour toll-free emergency helplines:
- Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0800 567 567 Childline South Africa Helpline: 116 or https://www.childlinesa.org.za/status/ (online counselling available Monday – Friday, 11am-1pm and 2pm-6pm)
- Department of Social Development Substance Abuse Helpline: 0800 12 13 14/SMS 32 312
- National Counselling Line: 086 132 2322
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