UCT mental health support services

14 August 2019 | Professor Loretta Feris

Dear colleagues and students

Towards the end of last year, the University of Cape Town (UCT) Council approved the Student Mental Health Policy. The Department of Student Affairs (DSA), in collaboration with other university stakeholders, initiated the implementation of the policy by realigning the Student Wellness Service (SWS) to widen access for students and increase the psychological services footprint on campus, in line with primary healthcare principles.

This includes the introduction of a triage system and risk assessment sessions as an entry point into services and to ensure that students who require urgent assistance or who are at high risk are identified and referred to the right set of resources without undue delay.

Furthermore, the introduction of shorter, solution-focused counselling sessions and additional group therapy sessions to supplement the existing long therapy sessions has ensured that more students are assisted timeously.

The SWS operates from Monday to Friday while the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) UCT Student Careline (0800 24 25 26 or SMS 31393 for a callback) is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The Crisis Intervention Service – the psychiatric night nurse service – operates every night, including weekends and public holidays.

The SWS has increased its footprint for mental health services on all UCT campuses. There are currently student psychological service points in faculties and at satellite clinics on the different campuses, with varied service offerings and improved ease of access for students.

Additional psychologists have also been recruited to provide services at the new service points in faculties. Psychiatric nurses have been added to support mental health services at walk-in points on three campuses – upper, lower and Hiddingh. Appointments are not required for consultations, enabling students to be attended to on the day. A full-time psychiatrist has been appointed to the team.


Digital appointment booking

Earlier this year the SWS migrated to a digital booking system, which is a major milestone in the implementation of the mental health policy. The online booking system is also available on the UCT app and allows students to book appointments at a time convenient for them. Students can use the platform to cancel, amend or reschedule bookings. The online system also allows students to view availability at the various clinics and service points in order to select the location most convenient to them.


Outreach services

In response to the ever-increasing demand for services, an outreach team has been established. The team is responsible for health promotion and mental health awareness at SWS sites, faculties and residences in line with the Student Mental Health Policy. Campus-wide health promotion campaigns with a strong focus on mental well-being have been initiated with a view to plan and host these biannually going forward.


Mental health support groups

SWS has launched a number of support groups for students on, among others, substance abuse, postgraduate support, undergraduate support and long-term therapeutic support. Students are encouraged to join any of the relevant support groups.


SWS Wellness Buddies

SWS has initiated a new Mental Health Peer Intervention project with student volunteers – the Wellness Buddies – as part of the Student Mental Health Policy implementation. The volunteers have an important role to play in linking their peers to available resources and providing information on how to access the SWS and other external resources. Contact the Wellness Buddies on sws@uct.ac.za.


Rollout of mental health first-aid training workshops

The DSA, through the SWS, is conducting mental health first-aid training workshops for UCT non-clinical staff who interact with students in faculty settings. The workshops are aligned with the UCT Student Mental Health Policy.


Do you need help?

Make an appointment online on the DSA SWS website or on the UCT app, or simply walk in to one of the DSA SWS service points to consult with a psychiatric nurse without an appointment today. You can also call the UCT Student Careline (0800 24 25 26 or SMS 31393 for a callback) or email sws@uct.ac.za.


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