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Universities act to address mental health challenges among students

The University of Nairobi (UoN) has resolved to start hiring its needy students for contractual jobs, as a way of reducing depression brought about by financial challenges at the Institution.

Vice Chancellor (VC), Prof. Stephen Kiamah, said the Dean of Students and the Career Office have been charged to identify deserving students to be given the jobs, while still undertaking their studies.

He said empowering their students with jobs that they can do for a small pay made more sense than giving the jobs to outsiders.

Speaking in Thika during an awareness walk by UoN students and their Mt Kenya University (MKU) counterparts dubbed ‘O3’, which was organized by UNESCO over the weekend, Prof Kiamah said depression at the University that has led to suicides and other ills was an issue of concern that needs immediate solution.

He said student leaders and Deans in all the universities need to raise their awareness levels, to monitor and help students in the red zone, due to mental health issues.

“Depression among university students is a concern and has led to not only suicides, but also unplanned pregnancies, HIV/Aids, school drop outs, among others. We need a collaborative effort with stakeholders, to help our students who are sinking into depression each day,” he said.

MKU Vice Chancellor, Prof Deogratius Jaganyi, said student leaders and school clinics have to deal with depression cases among the students each day, making it a matter of great apprehension.

He said through stakeholder participation, talks on Gender Based Violence, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and Mental health which triggers depression, will be mainstreamed in the schools as a co-curriculum activity.

The VC said the students were feeling the heat of a bad economy and if not well guided, risked contracting HIV/Aids and getting unplanned pregnancies.

“Depression and mental illness is a concern in almost all the universities. Many students are suffering in silence and that’s why we need to speak about it more, so that they can come up and share their experiences to get help,” said Prof. Jaganyi.

UNESCO Regional Director for Eastern Africa, Prof Hubert Gijzen, said the Programme aims to bring on board universities in managing the mental aspects of their students.

He said in most cases, universities have focused on academic learning and forgotten the need for their students to have good mental health, free from destruction.

“We have identified the gap and brought on board the universities to help their students in areas of mental health. They know the triggers and how to address them through creating more awareness and dialogue among them,” said Gijzen.

The ‘O3’ walk raises awareness on Gender Based Violence, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and Mental health.

By Muoki Charles

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