The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) has agreed to implement the Democratic Alliance (DA)’s proposal to focus on young people’s mental health challenges. In a recent Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, the DA made a request that the NYDA implement programmes at Universities and other institutions of higher learning to curb the rise in suicide deaths on our campuses. Suicide has increasingly been on the rise among young people across the country and on tertiary campuses.
According to NYDA, the only programme currently accessible to young people battling with mental health issues is the Higher Education and Training HIV/AIDS Programme (HEAIDS), which offers a life-skills training programme that includes a module on ‘Mental Toughness’.
The DA argued that this is not enough and there must be more programmes that look at directly assisting young people with psychologists, therapists and councillors. A programme that is able to assist the untold number of young people struggling with their mental health.
As things stand, access to mental health practitioners by young people in the country is almost non-existent and many young people are unable to afford these services, thus the NYDA must make this a priority.
The DA welcomes the fact that following this discussion, the NYDA will be taking up our proposal and will seek to create and implement programmes focused on access to mental health practitioners to ensure that young people at universities, TVET colleges and urban and rural areas will get assistance. This is a victory for young people across South Africa.
The DA is of the view that the help of young people dealing with mental issues cannot be limited to a single module as is currently the case, especially at a time when suicide is one of the leading causes of death amongst university students.
The reality is that mental health is something that almost all of us deal with at one point or another, and there must be a deliberate attempt to address this problem. Young people, especially those at Universities, continuously struggle with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety and have no access to mental health practitioners due to the costs involved.
The DA welcomes the fact that something more will be done to give young people the right kind of support and treatment they need to manage mental health conditions. Just like physical conditions, mental health conditions can be managed with the right support and treatment.
We will keep an eye on these developments and we will insist on timelines by which the NYDA will implement these mental health programmes. Enough is enough, young people should no longer have to face mental health challenges alone.