As we celebrate Youth Month in June, we must recommit to addressing poverty, unemployment, unequal educational opportunities and other factors that undermine psychosocial development, health and development. well-being of our young people.
“Our unified action between government, civil society organizations and the private sector can help address the vulnerability of young people due to their positioning at the interface between policy and practice,” says Professor Ramneek Ahluwalia, CEO of HIGHER HEALTH (HH), a non-profit organization dedicated to the health, wellness and psychosocial well-being of students in the post-school education and training (EPSF) sector.
“I call on public and private sector stakeholders to support HH’s initiatives aimed at strengthening the civic education, health, well-being and psychosocial development of young adults, as well as the creation of good citizenship among our youth, which will contribute to meaningful employment, entrepreneurship and an economically prosperous South Africa.
In nearly two decades of work in the field of youth health, HIGHER HEALTH has understood how poverty, inequality and various forms of disadvantage affect the mental well-being and physical health of many young South Africans. “If this is the situation on university and college campuses – where young people have the hope that their studies will lead to a better life – imagine how much more severe the effect is on young people who do not study, do not follow no training and no work,” says Ahluwalia. He urges more parents, guardians and young people to find ways to be educated and skilled, because “education is prevention.”
Employment figures from Statistics South Africa for the first quarter of 2022 indicated that 37% of young people aged 15-24 were not in education, employment or training (NEET) – and that this figure had increased over the past year.
Many social problems manifest themselves among young people. HH studies showed that 60% of young people in colleges and higher education institutions admitted to having consumed alcohol once a month; 65% of GBV is preceded by drug and alcohol abuse, as indicated by 2018 WHO studies in South Africa. Other challenges include untimely pregnancies, teenage pregnancies, substance abuse, physical abuse and absence of fathers/father figures, human rights abuses, mental health issues, HIV which hinder the progress of our young people and their assimilation into society after school.
The Optimus Sexual Abuse Study has shown just how much young people carry a history of abuse: around one in three experience sexual abuse before they turn 18.
One of the most telling statistics about young people’s mental health is the teen suicide rate: almost one in 10 teenage deaths is due to suicide – and the figure for suicide attempts is probably twice as high. raised. Both speak to the much larger problem of depression.
“The numbers show why we all need to play our part in developing and implementing youth empowerment initiatives, to increase opportunities for young people. Without adequate and appropriate forms of financial assistance, an improvement in the quality of teaching and a strengthening of the provision of post-school education and training, young people living in poverty will continue to lack access to opportunities needed to get out of chronic unemployment and poverty,” says Ahluwalia.
HIGHER HEALTH helps universities and colleges care for over 2.5 million young South Africans in the post-school education system, develop programs that meet mental, psychosocial and physical health of students. These include mental health services, sexual and reproductive health care, and initiatives to reduce gender-based violence and harmful use of alcohol and drugs.
It has supplemented on-campus clinics by deploying a fleet of 10 purpose-built mobile clinics and partnering with the South African Depression and Anxiety Group to offer a 24-hour student helpline.
How to access the HIGHER HEALTH 24 hour student helpline:
Free call 0800 36 36 36
About SUPERIOR HEALTH
HIGHER HEALTH is a national agency that seeks to inspire the success of two million students attending 26 universities and 50 TVET colleges by improving their health and well-being. We seek to reduce the effect of health-related conditions that often challenge students in higher education and which, if left untreated, can cause students to delay completing their studies or even drop out. .