Stress managed is stress no more

Research shows that South Africa is fast becoming a suicide capital. The number of young adults (aged 15-24) who commit and attempt suicide exceeds the international rate.

Stress, as well as the pressures and demands of school work and exams, can become too much for students. Enoch Motsoaledi, an academic lecturer at Wits who is studying towards a PhD in clinical psychology, says individuals may see suicide as their only option when experiencing deep despair and hopelessness.

Motsoaledi explains that signs that one is stressed differ from person to person, but that most people have common responses. “Experiencing stress can lead to physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms”, says Motsoaledi. These symptoms are a reflection of fight-flight response and not a sign of disease. “Stress is not a disease.”

Some physical symptoms of stress are breathlessness, fatigue, tension headaches and a dry mouth. Psychological symptoms include anxiety, inability to cope, hopelessness/helplessness and mood swings.

Stress is manageable but because of the negative stigma surrounding therapy and counselling many people don’t seek help early and this leads to one’s problems worsening, says Esther Monyela, an education psychologist.

The Wits Career Counselling and Development Unit (CCDU) has support structures for students feeling stressed and not coping with their studies.

They have trained professionals who offer counselling and therapy services to students. Their role is to help you help yourself. They operate in line with standards governed by the Health Professionals Council of South Africa and their services are strictly confidential.

For student experiencing a crisis and need to see a therapist prior to booking an appointment, a therapist will be available. The CCDU also offers group and peer therapy. Peer therapy involves counselling by psychology masters students, who are supervised by qualified psychologists.

If you’re afraid to get help because of the stigma associated with therapy, Motsoaledi encourages you to build supportive relationships, engage in positive self-talk and practise relaxation techniques.

Acknowledging your problem and the elements of your problem through therapy and counselling could save your life.

For more information, visit the CCDU on West Campus or contact them on 011 717 9140/32 or