Mental health is a topic that many sweep under the mat, feeling ashamed of it. Not so the JumpStart tutors at Kumalo Primary! They may have had a rough year… just like everyone the world over, but they’re talking about mental health. Covid-19, family challenges, financial hardship and then the violent looting affected many of our team. Despite this, Maria Nomgenye, Thulisile Mtembu, Unahina Hlungwani and Pule Morobi found a way to keep hope alive, and to comfort each other on dark days. Most importantly, they choose to stay focused on the children in their care who are learning the basics of mathematics. These vibrant youngsters reflected on how they keep things balanced when everything turns upside down.
We’re going through the most…
Thulisile Mtembu has noticed fellow tutors in the district who are struggling with stress. “Most young people in this day and age – including tutors like me – are breadwinners. Society was unkind to our uneducated parents and guardians. Some young people don’t even have parents and they must parent their own siblings. We live in a society where you are seen as weak if you openly discuss your problems you go through. This explains why the youth of today has lots of challenges, it’s because we shy to speak up about our problems,” she said.
“Our young people are broken young men and women with so much potential but they can’t reach that full potential because they don’t even know what mental health is, what depression is, what bipolar is or how one is diagnosed with all that let alone how one can live with such because platforms are now there.”
Create a safe space to share your feelings
Thulisile continued: “Many young people who parents and students. Some have to push themselves to further their studies, to become something in life. All those factors add pressure on their mental health and we need a place of safety to talk about all that and find informed solutions. Some youth often most need support when they are not functioning optimally at work. Instead of risking disciplinary action at work, they will do well to reach out when they are going through terrible times.
“At Kumalo Primary we work on our mental health especially when one of us is going through a painful time. We create a safe space, allowing each other to vent. If one of us is not okay emotionally, we take half an hour to do a team intervention. We listen without judging or laughing. We encourage one another, offer solutions because four heads combined are better than one. So we are each other’s pillars because as young as we are we still go through the most. We all come out laughing and feeling super good, knowing we are not alone in the struggle and we can conquer anything.”
Healthy relationships and a positive attitude
Unahina Hlungwani believes that staying positive and keeping an open mind is important to good mental health:- We must remember that everyone is unique. It will help you to keep a healthy mind if you accept that everyone is unique. Try to understand them. Our biggest anxiety concerns our future. As young people we are unsure how life is going to turn out because we are working hard for a better tomorrow. The question we always ask ourselves is, “Am I going to achieve all my goals?” Prayer is number one for me and keeping healthy relationships which foster a positive attitude towards life.
When the going gets tough, the tough get supportive!
Maria Nomgenye wants to give her colleagues a medal for their supportive approach. “They are a dedicated and hard-working team – during the week, after work hours, or even over the weekend. They go out of their way to meet deadlines and to perform our work as tutors. The Kumalo Primary School family benefits from their bubbly personalities and appreciates their welcoming spirit. But like many young adults coming from our black communities today, they face difficult life challenges and enormous personal responsibilities that sometimes feel overwhelming. Despite that, they always keep a positive spirit and work hard towards their own education goals. They always uplift and motivate me to keep on going even when I feel demoralised!”
If your emotions are overwhelming you, reach out and speak to a trusted friend. Don’t be shy! Don’t be silent! The JumpStart co-ordinators and programme staff are willing to listen and will hold all discussions in strictest confidence. Other mental health resources with qualified professionals offer free services to those in need include:
- South African Federation of Mental Health’s useful links
- Tears Foundation
- South African Depression and Anxiety Group
Help us to help youth secure skills and employment
Your support for our organisation helps us to create a supportive environment where township youth can improve their mental health as they gain skills, pursue their studies, as they work at transforming underperforming classrooms into centres of mathematical excellence. Donate via our website and qualify for a Section 18A Tax Exemption Certificate!