The month of September commemorates Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, with 10 September marking global Suicide Prevention Day. The purpose of this day, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is to raise awareness that suicide can be prevented across the globe. With the COVID-19 pandemic causing increased stress levels due to its adverse effect on finances, academics, and normality, the University of Pretoria is doing its part to raise awareness.
The UP website provides some behavioural indicators that someone may be thinking of committing suicide. Some of these are: talking about suicide, a negative change in behaviour, trying to access objects that could be used in a suicide attempt, loss of hope for the future, destructive behaviours, giving away valuable items, and saying goodbye as if one will not be seeing loved ones again.
With the Student Counselling Unit (SCU) being physically inaccessible during the lockdown period, necessary amends have been made to make sure the SCU is available virtually to assist students who may be struggling with mental health difficulties.
According to the UP website, the SCU now offers a telehealth service in the form of e-therapy sessions through WhatsApp video calls or the Zoom app. The services are free to all UP registered students and the services offered are in line with the regulations of the Health Professions Council of South Africa. Apart from therapy, the SCU also offers referrals, career counselling, and career assessment.
Students who need the services of the SCU can email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a callback or call 012 420 2333. Alternatively, students can dial 0800 747 747, the UP Careline which is active 24/7 for students who would like to speak to a counsellor.
Illustration: Marchall Potgieter