On Sunday, 10 October, the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Student Wellness Service (SWS) hosted its first Run/Walk4Mental Health as part of Mental Health Awareness Month. Participants had the choice of completing a 1.5 km, 3 km or 6 km run or walk around the UCT rugby field; 4, 8 or 13 times, respectively.
After a warm day in Cape Town, a light breeze came in to break the heat and sent the red and white barrier tape that demarcated the track fluttering. Music played through speakers, creating a lively atmosphere as participants collected their bibs and race numbers. Friends and colleagues who hadn’t seen one another in person for the better part of two years were reunited, while some were meeting for the first time.
Saying ‘yes’ to life
To kick things off, the executive director of Student Affairs, Pura Mgolombane, welcomed the participants and highlighted the importance of mental health awareness and events such as the Run/Walk4Mental Health.
“It is about being mindful of the importance of mental health and what is going on with your own mental health. This awareness is crucial, because in being mindful, we can see that we are not alone and [it] helps us to practise well-being and understanding our thoughts and feelings,” he said.
“This makes us understand each other better and be patient with each other and embrace each other. But another significant part of well-being is being active – which is why we are here today.
“If you remain active in one way or another, then you are able to assist those who are helping you to ensure you become healthy. This should be a way of life. So, what we are really doing today is saying ‘We are mindful; we are not alone’, and we are saying ‘Yes!’ to life,” Mgolombane added.
Echoing this sentient, Simosenkosi Tshambi – a SWS mental health peer educator, second-year commerce student and captain of UCT’s long-distance running team – highlighted that teamwork is a crucial factor in maintaining good mental health and putting events such as the fun Run/Walk4Mental Health together.
“The SWS team is built on oneness and unity. This team of action-inspired individuals has worked tirelessly to bring about change for themselves and their communities. We fight together for the common cause of promoting mental health and reminding people that there is hope. And it brings me joy to see how far this initiative has gone and how fast it has grown because of this,” he noted.
Do it for yourself
In line with the thoughts around mindfulness and togetherness, SWS psychiatrist Dr Mwanja Chundu reminded the crowd to be cognisant of the fact that we are “integrated beings”, noting that there is value in making time for self-care.
“Your mind is part of everything that you do. Whether that’s academic, your personal relationships or maintaining your own health. So, just as spending time on your academics is valuable, it’s also important to put in time to think about self-care,” she said.
Dr Chundu added that when it comes to living more thoughtfully and mindfully – whether through pursuing a more spiritual life, eating well or staying physically active – it is important that we deliberately make space for ourselves to ensure we create a sense of hope in our own lives.
“when you do start feeling anxious or depressed, it’s important to be able to hold on to that sense of hope and find meaning.”
“A lot of us struggle with depression and anxiety. Those are things that are external to you, that you don’t really have control over. But when you do start feeling anxious or depressed, it’s important to be able to hold on to that sense of hope and find meaning. So, I’d like to encourage you all to really look at spending time thinking about what self-care looks like, see what gives you hope and what gives you meaning in your life.”
Emphasising this idea of self-care, UCT Vice-chancellor (VC) Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng encouraged the participants to think of why they were present and what motivated them.
“I want us today to think, ‘Who am I doing this for? Why do I do it?’ If you are not clear about who you are doing things for, it is easy to end up carrying burdens that you shouldn’t be carrying. And I want to tell you that you must do it for yourself.
“First and foremost, it must be for you. Today, you must be taking a step to take care of your mental health for yourself. It’s not about who’s fast and who’s slow, whether you’re running or walking, it’s about doing it for you,” she said.
By putting ourselves first, the VC noted, we may be able to build a healthier, happier world.
“A big part of why the world is such an unhealthy place is because individuals are not putting themselves first, not taking care of themselves. So, you must take care of yourself, take yourself seriously and love yourself. If we each do that, together we can start working towards a healthy campus, a healthy city, country, continent and world,” she added.
Following the introductory addresses, the event was under way, with all 250 participants walking or running their chosen courses while observing all COVID-19 protocols. Finishers received a participation medal as well as an on-the-go healthy snack hamper to refuel after the day’s events.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Please view the republishing articles page for more information.