Students face a number of difficulties during their time at university, and students may reach a stage in their lives when they require support. Residence students can find support from the student support division in residences, which is provided by TuksRes. Perdeby spoke to Bes Liebenberg, manager of residence management and student support at the Department of Residence Affairs and Accommodation about the services that residence Student Support provides, as well as general student stresses.

What can TuksRes Student Support help students with?

TuksRes Student Support offers support to help students manage academic and personal demands more effectively while gaining self-understanding and direction. Our aim is to ensure that there is someone who can lend support to you in order to avert any anxiety you may feel when coping with life at university in general, and with residence in particular.

Why should residence students come to TuksRes Student Support when they need help?

Problems can surface at all stages of your university career. Normal life does not stop because you are a student. A close family member may die, you may have relationship problems, you may suddenly become confused about your sexual identity, or suffer from an eating disorder. Sometimes the pressure of deadlines and exams can be too much and you become anxious or depressed. You may even think about leaving. Life can be pretty stressful. Sometimes just talking about it helps. If you are having problems, be they personal, family or relationship issues, we can refer you to a professional who can help. Whatever your concerns, support and referred counselling will give you the space to explore them in a safe and non-judgmental space.

What are students at risk of now that exams are approaching?

Students experience higher levels of stress, anxiety, depression, fear, hopelessness and rage, and exam time can be painful to many. Academic worries are the biggest cause of stress for about 50% of students. Exam pressure, as with any type of stress, can lead to mental illness if left unmanaged. Students may withdraw from social and sport activities, which are actually vital in managing stress levels. In the worst cases, there could be rare incidents of young people committing suicide when under extreme stress with exams.

Counsellors [can] provide help for students experiencing exam stress, but in more severe cases professional counselling or psychological therapy might be the best option. Faculty advisors could also help look out for warning signs. These include declining academic marks, social isolation, sleep or appetite disturbances, emotional outbursts, and any substance use or self-harm. Most students wait too long to seek support and assistance, and often it is a long road ahead for many youngsters when they have reached their thresholds of stress.

We need to talk about social and emotional issues – how to cope with stress, that failure or imperfect performance is normal, natural and healthy and a part of the learning process.

Who is available to help students at TuksRes Student Support, and what can they do?

Counsellors are professionals who have been trained to assist individuals by helping people understand themselves, their abilities and potential, helping people through changing circumstances and transitions from one stage of life to another, helping people grow in the midst of personal crisis or despite a lack of resources, and helping people set goals, overcome barriers, access resources and plan fulfilling, productive lives. On the whole, it is not the role of a counsellor/supporter to give you advice. The counsellor’s skills are primarily to help you explore and understand your difficulties and move toward greater self-reliance. It is a process that involves careful listening and consideration of what is being discussed. While your counsellor will not tell you what to do, [they] may offer [their] thoughts and, where appropriate, offer relevant information that could assist you.

Why are students hesitant to seek help from TuksRes Student Support?Coming for counselling can take courage, as it involves facing yourself and asking someone else for help. Sometimes students don’t feel safe. At TuksRes we create safe spaces for students to receive support. Students live with the perception that seeking help indicates failure, where it is actually just the opposite.

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