Having a healthy mind is essential for your success as a student. If you can’t stay focused, motivated and positive, then you’ll probably find it difficult to pass your course. October is Mental Health Awareness Month, so now is the perfect time to ensure that you’re looking after your mental and emotional wellbeing.

Becoming aware of mental health

There are many different types of mental health illnesses. Some of the more well-known mental health illnesses include depression, anxiety disorder and bipolar mood disorder. These conditions are medically classified as diseases, and they affect millions of people worldwide. According to medical research, anything from a traumatic event (the loss of a loved one, losing one’s job etc.) to a chemical imbalance in the body can be the cause of mental illness. It is not always possible to say why someone has a mental health illness.

People who suffer with mental health conditions seldom have any control over how they feel. Just like how someone who has malaria, for example, cannot simply make themselves physically better, someone who has a mental health illness cannot just make themselves feel and be better. These illnesses can severely affect every day functioning and thinking — even the ability or desire to get out of bed in the morning — and they can lead to noticeable personality and mood changes.

Even though mental health illnesses are medically-recognised conditions, there is unfortunately still a lot of judgement and lack of understanding surrounding the conditions and the people who suffer from them. Many people are embarrassed, or don’t feel comfortable, to say that they have a mental health illness. Sufferers often try to hide their symptoms as best they can, or they sometimes make irrational or risky decisions, such as walking out on their jobs. Sufferers may withdraw completely from social situations, and they may struggle to find the motivation or ability to perform everyday tasks. 

No one can be happy all day and every day, and we all experience sadness in our lives. But if you go for several weeks of feeling extremely sad or of feeling “just not yourself”, or, if you’re finding it difficult to do the things that are normal for you, then it is important that you speak to someone about how you are feeling. It is also important to listen to your family and friends if they tell you that they are noticing changes in you; they are the people who know you best and will have your best interests at heart.

Finding treatment

If you suspect that you might be suffering from depression, or if you’re feeling extremely anxious or have experienced other strange changes in mood or personality, then you should seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Speak out about how you are feeling and what you are experiencing. Your mental and emotional wellbeing are important. You are important. You are not alone.

People to contact

In addition to getting medical advice, there are various support groups that you can turn to for advice and support:

South African Depression and Anxiety Group

South African Federation for Mental Health


Remember, there is help available. There are people and organisations that can help you. Do not suffer in silence. Speak out and get help. You matter!

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