VUT HOSTS ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION ON MENTAL HEALTH AND COVID-19
By Nontobeko Moimane 26 August 2022
To address mental health issues and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, on Thursday, 18 August 2022, the VUT Department of Community Engagement held a dialogue on Covid-19 and Mental Health.
Themed: Setjhaba buang, Covid-19 impact on Mental Health, the event was held at the PS Building at the Vaal University of Technology Vanderbijlpark Campus, in partnership with 4D Health (Bestmed) and Umvuzo Health Rewarding Life.
The unexpected Covid 19 pandemic has had not only eco-political implications but wreaked havoc socially. In the economic context, one witnesses a rise in the cost of living. A lot of people lost their loved ones. Politically, people were left with speculations in terms of the root causes of the pandemic.
From a social perspective, people were forced not only to reimagine the future, but also to readjust to what emerged as a new norm of living. Whilst others had socio-psychological support, others had lacked that. It stands to reason why Covid 19 had a serious psychological impact yet underrated by communities and the government itself.
It is against the above-mentioned background that VUT Community Engagement Practitioner, Ms. Nthabiseng Mahlangu, organised the round table discussion. The programme included speakers and representatives from the following internal and external stakeholders:
- Ms Zandile Shabange : Bestmed
- Dr Matjhabedi Mazibuko : HoD – VUT Student Counselling and Support Department
- Mrs Gladys Mvundlela : Sedibeng District Health Department
- Ms Nokuthula Mazibuko : VUT Law Clinic
- Mrs Elizabeth Khetsi : VUT Cleaning Services
- Mrs Faith Mocoancoeng : Wellness Manager – VUT Student Accommodation
- Mr Bethuel Mokoena : Department of Social Development – Men’s Forum
- Kefilwe Mokoena : VUT FM
Directed by Ms Kefilwe Mokoena (VUT-FM), the focus of the well-attended event was on creating awareness about Covid-19 and how it has affected people’s mental health in all aspects of life.
Keynote Speaker Dr Matjhabedi Mazibuko explained that her department consists of a multi-disciplinary team which aims to ensure the wellness of the VUT community in the six dimensions of their lives, viz: emotional, intellectual, occupational, physical, social, and spiritual well-being. The team’s interventions are guided by an ethical code of conduct enforced by their professional bodies. She spoke on topics such as relationships, motivation, motivation on careers, climbing the corporate leader, health-keeping mentally fit, social norms, and finances.
According to her, wellness is a positive approach to living, which results in physical, psychological, social, and spiritual well-being. She further mentioned that a high level of wellness is necessary for enhanced levels of individual performance. It involves a balanced, controlled approach to each of the six dimensions of wellness. “The success you achieve in each of these areas is determined by choosing behaviours that improve the quality of daily lives and eliminate destructive behaviour”, said Dr Mazibuko.
She encouraged the audience to take charge and maintain control of their lives by making informed choices. “Wellness has the potential to improve academic progress, success after graduation and happiness in personal life.”
In conclusion, Dr Mazibuko stated that people must live within their means, as some issues can negatively impact their mental health and lead to depression. “Such issues rob you of your happiness and isolate you from fellow human beings”.
In support of the topic, Mr Bethuel Mokoena (Social Development department) stated that society needs to be concerned about the state of a boy child in our community and the well-being of men. ” Men feel unappreciated”, he added.
He further stated that men don’t talk because platforms are not available for them, and the focus is on a girl child, not the boy child. “There’s an abuse of men, and we don’t talk about it. Such needs to be attended to by society as we co-exist as humans. “When we have LOVE, we have LIFE”, he said. He concluded by stating that sometimes you need to be teared up so that the gift inside you may be realized.
The audience interacted with the speakers during a question-and-answer session.
From the outcomes of the deliberations, there needs to be a follow-up discussion that will fundamentally contribute to a propped strategy on mainstreaming mental health within the university.
The above will contribute towards conversations and a narrative that will serve as a reflection on why mental health issues have increased immensely over the past months due to the effects caused by Covid-19.
World Health Organisation on Mental Health Issues and Covid-19 Pandemic
The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that mental health issues have increased immensely over the past months due to the effects caused by Covid-19. These cognitive issues include emotional, psychological, and social well-being.
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, mental health affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is essential at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
WHO further addresses that many people have become more anxious, but COVID-19 has triggered or expanded much more severe mental health problems for some. Several people have reported psychological distress and symptoms of depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress due to Covid-19.