by Faith Ongeziwe Qinga
The stigma behind going to wellness offices at institutions of higher learning is preventing students from seeking help to fight drug and alcohol addiction. In January this year, I recall how a number of students I spoke to at an Anti-Substance Abuse Education & Awareness Campaign exhibition facilitated by the Substance Abuse unit of the National Department of Social Development agreed that stigma is indeed stopping students from getting professional help because they worry about who is watching them enter the Student Development Services (SDS) at school, and that, of course, comes back with being labelled a “druggie”.
During the campaign, students explained that they are ashamed to go to SDS because they’re judged by their peers and are labelled as druggies or drunkards. There are a number of issues which trigger students to give into substance use, these include peer pressure and wanting to explore the new-found freedom for first-year students. Coming from a strict home, you’d want to start going out because of the freedom you get in varsity.
Having a brief chat with a culinary lecturer, she shared the same views that students in the country do have a drinking problem as she conversed with me how on Monday mornings you can see the results of the weekend’s drinking spree, adding that the combination of drinking and drugs is the biggest challenge facing students.
Substance abuse among youth is a social dilemma the country is faced with, and the mental wellbeing of young people is at a critical stage as we are just trying to find an escape to what is happening to us.
Removing pubs from campus is not the ideal solution in reducing alcohol intake, because as the culinary lecturer told me, “an establishment that sells alcohol is never the problem, its a matter of students being faced with so many challenges that they see a need to drink in excess”. The youth must learn to drink responsibly rather.