Even at the best of times, our South African youth face a constant assault on their mental wellbeing, ranging from depression and anxiety disorders that emanate from a myriad of sources including poverty, joblessness, and violence. However, in the age of the Covid-19 pandemic, the onslaught of associated mental health pressures of the youth has been kicked into higher gear.
Nizenande Machi, Co-Founder of youth development lab, Lucha Lunako says, “The facts and numbers around teen suicide in South Africa are staggering: 22 people commit suicide in SA daily, with 9% of all teen deaths being attributed to suicide. Suicide marks the quickest growing cause of death amongst locals aged 15 to 24, all this according to research conducted by The Western Cape Government.”
In order to address this reality head-on, there is a glaringly growing need for young people within South Africa to be supported through psycho-social programmes, which are on-going care and support initiatives targeted at children and adolescents and that have been specifically tailored to meet their age-appropriate and relevant emotional, spiritual, cognitive, social and physical needs. This entails interactions with their surroundings and the people who care for them.
“The term ‘Psychosocial’ references the relationship between the psychological dimension of a human being, which includes their emotions and internal thought processes, and the social dimension of a person, including their family, social networks, friends, colleagues, and community,” explains Machi.
At their core, psychosocial interventions aim to provide psychosocial care, and deliver a boost to the psychosocial well-being of the youth by educating and empowering them to know about the child rights perspective, channels to obtain protection from harm, have them learn about dignity and respect, and providing an environment of trust and stability. Elements of coaching and mentorship are also provided, especially with regards to their career development.
This week, Lucha Lunako has launched a campaign in collaboration with Amathuba Collective which substantially strengthens psychosocial support provided to about 2,500 young people in work experience programmes across the country. The Amathuba Collective contact centre is staffed with youth on the YES (Youth Employment Service) programme who are on weekly calls with their peers to check-in, listen and guide, with the intention to improve their overall mental and emotional wellbeing. The training and support offered to the lay counsellors is essential for them to provide quality services to the young person on the other side of the phone line or WhatsApp chat.
To this end, Lucha Lunako has also been conducting comprehensive research on psychosocial support initiatives and programmes available to individuals and relevant organisations. The findings about effective and impactful programmes, identified gaps and possible multifaceted solutions will become available in the first quarter of 2022.
“Jointly we aim to expand on the significance of psychosocial support specifically for the youth, access to support facilities and explore interventions that deal directly with the mental and social traumas faced by the youth. Ultimately, what we want is for these vulnerable youth to gain extensive self-knowledge, know their worth and the positive contribution they can make for their employers, communities, or society at large, to empower them to be more independent, and for them to find avenues to gain and cultivate support networks from others,” concludes Machi.