Today is World Mental Health Day, which is a fitting time to discuss services that are available through the University of Cape Town (UCT) to help you address mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and similar conditions that affect us all to some extent, even when we are performing at our best.
During my term of office as Vice-Chancellor, and especially over the last two years, I have had the privilege to see levels of commitment, professionalism and loyalty to UCT that have been, in some cases, truly impressive. I want to again assure you that your efforts are noticed and greatly appreciated. UCT as an institution continues to perform well and our reputation remains strong thanks to each one of you.
These sacrifices that many have made, and the complexities of our times, are no doubt adding additional pressure on top of the inevitable challenges we all face professionally but also in our personal lives.
The higher education sector remains a shifting landscape. It is an environment that involves much greater volatility and complexity than we might have been used to. As members of this changing community, it is important to consider carefully how we are personally affected and what steps we can take to maintain resilience and even thrive under such pressure.
I am writing to alert you again to the UCT services that are available to you and that can lend support in times when dealing with so many pressures may feel overwhelming. Support is available whether the stresses are related to work, a changing environment, or personal mental health stresses you might be experiencing at any given time.
UCT offers a multi-faceted approach:
Psychosocial and mental health support for staff
1. SADAG helpline: toll-free 0800 171 171 or send an SMS to 31393 for a callback
If you feel that you are not coping, you need support or you want to build resilience to stress, the Organisational Health and Wellness office in the Human Resources Department has extended the services of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) to all staff members. (A similar service is already available to UCT students.)
SADAG offers free telephonic counselling as well as referrals to nationwide resources such as psychologists, psychiatrists, general practitioners, clinics, hospitals, trauma centres, rehabilitation centres and other NGOs. You can dial the free helpline 24/7, any day of the year: 0800 171 171 from a Telkom line or send an SMS to 31393 for a callback. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org and a counsellor will call you.
Read useful information from SADAG about mental health issues and take questionnaires that can help you identify your areas of vulnerability and offer suggestions based on your scoring.
2. On-site counselling or via ICAS: toll-free 0801 113 945 or send USSD code *134*905# for a callback
UCT offers employees, their spouses and minor children access to short-term counselling. This service offers support to people who feel they are not coping, or need to deal with some issues (at work or at home) with an independent psychologist. Each household is eligible for up to four sessions per year.
This counselling is available through either the on-site counsellor, or via the Independent Counselling and Advisory Service (ICAS), which is the outside service provider that UCT contracts with for both toll-free and face-to-face counselling.
You can make an appointment via email with the Organisational Health and Wellness office in the Human Resources Department for an initial consultation and to determine what the best course of action and relevant referral would be. All contacts with the UCT counselling process are guaranteed absolute confidentiality.
UCT’s toll-free number is 0801 113 945. You can also send a USSD code *134*905# to receive a callback.
3. Self-leadership training
The self-leadership training programme aims to help with visualising successful performance, positive self-talk, self-reward and self-cueing. Modules cover topics such as basic stress management, self-care, emotional awareness and regulation, realistic optimism and negative thinking, effective communication, problem-solving, conflict resolution and building an emotional–psychological resilience plan.
4. Line manager training
5. Additional training for staff
When approached by students who need emotional and psychological support, some staff find themselves acting as a counselor. Some of you have expressed concerns about whether you have the necessary skills to fulfill this role.
In response to this, we are now offering training for staff who would like to acquire basic counselling skills to better support students. This training takes place weekly for one month.
6. Group interventions
Once-off emotional impact sessions, or a group trauma debriefing session can be arranged with ICAS. Both sessions accept a maximum of 15 people per group.
Dr Max Price
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