Making teenagers more aware of mental health-related conditions

YOLANDE DU PREEZ

It is hoped that a campaign by a group of pupils from the International School of Hout Bay (ISHB), aimed at making teenagers more aware of mental health-related conditions will expand to other schools in Hout Bay as the campaign grows.

The campaign, Mental health teens, forms part of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme’s (IBDP) creativity, activity and service activities (CAS) which is a compulsory component of the IBDP.

Group member and Grade 13 pupil, Nina Götz,18 said the campaign is aimed at educating teenagers and their families about mental disorders and to create a support system for teenagers to communicate with each other and to encourage them to seek help.

Another group member, Morgan Flowerday, 18, said the project was inspired by the life story of a former pupil who, in 2013, was sufferring from depression and inflicted harm on herself.

She created a project – To write love on her arms – and so created awareness about her condition, and helped and educated others.

The group aims to follow in her footsteps.

Nina, who is head of service at the school, said funds raised by the campaign will go towards the appointment of a part-time school councillor at the school.

“We feel there is a great need for a counsellor at the school to help pupils with depression and other disorders,” she said.

A while back she found a letter in the library, written by a fellow pupil.

“The letter was addressed to her body and in this letter she apologised to her body for harming and hurting it.

“Self harm and depression and the stigma that goes along with it is real,” she said.

She said self harm was a very personal act and not as rare as many would think.

“One in every three South Africans suffer from some sort of mental illness,” she said, adding that they hoped their campaign would have long-term effects and leave a legacy at the school.

Nina Janse van Rensburg, 18, who is also part of the campaign, said they will have various fundraising events to collect the necessary funds.

Last month the group had a successful poetry evening and on Tuesday March 8 there was a public talk on depression. Future fundraising events will include a quiz night and other talks.

The campaign will be promoted on social media with a hashtag #daretocare and the group hopes this will encourage others to take action and help people with mental illness instead of judging.

They have also painted a mural on the school wall to create awareness and to motivate pupils to come forward and ask for help.