Schools in South Africa Have the Potential to Be an Important Mental Health Tool

The trend of mental well-being for young South Africans appears to be heading in a negative one due to the significant inequality that exists in the country, high unemployment rates, high violence, and crime rates, and the economic and social impact of COVID-19.

There Are Several Facets to Mental Wellness

It allows people to deal with the pressures of everyday life, realize their potential, do well in school and the workplace, and make positive contributions to the communities in which they live. If people do not receive the help that could safeguard them from acquiring the mental disease, their risk of having mental illness increases when they are confronted with social and economic challenges.

There is a lack of information regarding the exact prevalence of mental problems in children and adolescents in South Africa. However, it is abundantly obvious that a significant number of children are not thriving as a result of rampant violence, prejudice, and inequality.

The South African Child Gauge has been a yearly report that has been issued by the Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town since 2005. Annually, the publication focuses on a particular topic to draw further attention to the privileges that South African children are entitled to.

The mental state of children and adolescents is the main topic of the most recent edition of the South African Child Gauge. It examines how early experiences of hardship ripple out throughout the life cycle and subsequent generations, causing a significant amount of damage to both people and society.

Schools Are Potential Sources of Contact

Children and teenagers in South Africa are exposed to a variety of risks to their futures as a result of the country’s status as among the most “imbalanced” countries in the world. However, the majority of them are now engaged in some form of the educational program offered by the country. This is something that they all share in common. Because of this, schools and other types of educational establishments are indispensable tools for mental health.

We outline the function that these institutions play currently as well as the prospective role that they could play in fostering and safeguarding mental health within the setting of South Africa. We look at the policies, provisions, and issues that are already in place. In addition, we emphasize the potential for action in the education system to close gaps in psycho-social support and assistance by utilizing case stories to illustrate these opportunities.

The environments in which children and teenagers live and are active have a significant impact on their overall health and happiness. With the help of this article, we have high hopes that policymakers and implementers will see the enormous potential that schools have to promote and safeguard the mental health of young people and will act accordingly.

Initiatives Implemented in Schools

As places that provide care, schools offer a variety of benefits. They already have the necessary infrastructure in place. In general, they have strong ties not just to the communities that they serve but also to the regional and provincial governments that regulate how they do their jobs. They typically serve as a point of communication between educators, students, parents, and other caretakers, as well as other community organizations and agencies. They employ persons who have received training in the learning and development of children and adolescents. In addition to this, they provide formal possibilities for the continuous development of professional skills.

Learners who come from disadvantaged households receive support from their schools. Maintaining positive interactions between students and teachers can be beneficial to students’ mental health. It is also common knowledge that experts in the field of mental health, as well as teachers, support staff, lay counselors, and peers, are all capable of providing successful school-based interventions. Schools are frequently easier to access, and there is less of a social stigma associated with them, than specialized mental health treatments.

A student who feels connected to their school, who feels acknowledged, valued, and part of the school, is more likely to develop a sense of belonging and high self-esteem than a learner who does not feel connected to their school. They are likely able to keep their feelings in check and have the drive to succeed in everything they set their minds to.

Despite all of its potential, though, schools are part of more complicated systems that involve a variety of stakeholders. How they function is significantly impacted by structural problems such as poverty, crime, and both social and gender inequality. In addition to this, they frequently have an excessive caseload and few resources to offer treatment for mental health issues. These factors, in turn, have an effect on the mental health of children and adolescents.

The setting of a child’s or adolescent’s school has the potential to expose them to harmful influences, such as bullying, abuse, or even physical assault from other students or staff members.

Care at Every Stage of the Educational Process

The provision of mental health care at educational institutions ought to take into account the learner’s setting, age, and stage of development. Accessibility to recovery and therapy services should be included in the spectrum of care, along with the promotion of improved mental health, the prevention of mental health disorders, and the avoidance of mental health problems.

The policy response that South Africa has established to fulfill the requirements of learners is highly developed. However, certain problems must be overcome at each level in order for the implementation to be successful, and certain areas need special focus.

For instance, national early childhood development programs often include provisions for health monitoring and assistance programs, but they tend to place less emphasis on early detection and referral. An excellent method that has been proven successful in other settings with limited resources is training instructors to recognize behavioral issues in their students. Early childhood development centers are excellent locations for reaching out to parents and other caregivers to connect them with available programs.

The policy allows for screening, as well as psychosocial support and connections to primary health care providers for students while they are still in elementary school. The study of mental health is typically a component of educational programs about health. It is possible that future investments may center on the education of health professionals and teachers in order to put into action school health policy. Additionally, it is essential to put an end to bullying and foster a sense of community within schools.

Likewise, there are provisions made for screening and psycho-social assistance, as well as other medical services, school safety, and health education when students are enrolled in secondary school. It is necessary by law for schools to offer counseling and support services to pregnant and parenting teenage females. When these policies are linked with community-based programs, it is sometimes possible to overcome the practical challenges that arise when putting these policies into action.

Although there is no overall policy approach for mental health in higher education in South Africa, numerous tertiary institutions have policies in place to address the issue. In most cases, they include a promise to offer assistance to kids who are struggling with various obstacles.

Important Subject Areas

According to the findings of our research, there are several key possibilities to enhance a person’s mental health at each level of the educational process.

  • Pay attention to the transitional phases because shifting to a new learning environment can be difficult in a variety of different ways.
  • Efforts should be made to combat racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice.
  • Encourage the health and happiness of teachers.
  • Educators in South Africa are subjected to high levels of anxiety at work and frequently report that they do not feel equipped to tackle the challenges they face.

Even while it is abundantly evident that schools and other educational organizations face a number of problems, future efforts might draw on resources and research that already exist in order to provide young people in South Africa with the form of mental health assistance that they require.