Knowing More and Doing More About Mental Health

University of Botswana researchers from the Department of Psychology are conducting an inaugural study to generate new knowledge and treatment options for mental health problems among university students in Botswana.

The Youth Mental Health Study (YMHS) aims to investigate the prevalence and predictors of symptoms of mental disorders among university students in Botswana. The study entails an online survey targeting 1 300 randomly selected students from six universities by end of March 2020. Participating universities combined account for around 70 per cent of students enrolled in universities in Botswana.

The research team, led by clinical psychologists, Maphisa Maphisa and Petunia Mogotsi, believes that the study will provide universities and mental health care providers with information on how they can provide better care to students. Also, on the research team are: Tiro Motsamai, Boitshepo Mosupiemang, Olorato Machola, and Keamogetse Maswabi.

“From research in other parts of the world we know that 75 per cent of mental disorders have their onset by young adulthood. Now if you add the stressors of transitioning into and being in a university, you can appreciate why university students are at greater risk of mental disorders,” said Mogotsi.

The researchers warn that although having a mental health problem does not mean one cannot function as a student, studies show that untreated mental health problems negatively affect students’ academic performance.

Despite studies in other countries showing that up to 50 per cent of students have mental health problems, the extent of the problem is largely unknown in Botswana.

Maphisa stated: “We believe the absence of such knowledge ill-prepares universities and the general health care sector to adequately plan for the delivery of mental health care to young adults”.

He added “our study will determine the prevalence of symptoms of eight common mental disorders, and importantly show the risk factors which increase one’s chance of having the symptoms. With such knowledge, universities and the health sector can determine the human and physical resources needed to care for individuals with mental disorders. Importantly, once we know the risk factors, we can device targeted interventions to modify the risk.”

The research team applauded the six participating universities for their commitments to their students’ mental wellbeing. Gratitude was also expressed to the universities, the Student Representative Councils, and the ministries of Health and Wellness and Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology for their engagement and support.

In pursuit of academic excellence