George van Dyk

Varsity Sports is taking a step to raise awareness around mental health on campusses. In association with the Ithemba Foundation, the SpeakUp campaign was launched at the fourth annual Varsity Cricket tournament.

The campaign, aimed at all Varsity Sports participants and fans, aims to inform people about the reality of mental health issues.

“The whole intention of the campaign is to raise awareness regarding mental health, with a specific focus on athletes as well as the broader student community,” said Jaco-Louis Groenewald, spokesperson for Varsity Sports.

Duitser Bosman, CEO of Varsity Sports, explained that the campaign focuses on the importance of mental health, the discussion of one’s own mental well-being and informing the broader student community of where assistance with mental health issues can be sought.

“Findings by the Mental Health Information Centre on student wellness showed that nearly 40 percent of students on a specific campus suffered from some type of mental illness, be it depression, anxiety disorder or social anxiety
disorder,” Bosman said.

The SpeakUp campaign will be materialised by Varsity Sports in numerous ways, and the most prominent is likely to be the SpeakUp briefings Varsity Sports will be hosting.

These briefings will happen across all seven of their sports codes, namely cricket, athletics, hockey, netball, football, 7’s rugby and mountain biking.

Furthermore, Varsity Sports plans to use its social media platforms and website to share information regarding
positive mental health. Bosman added that each player of the match will be wearing a bright green clothing item with the aim of highlighting their focus on mental health in 2018, so be on the lookout for that.

SU professor Lizette Rabe, who founded the Ithemba Foundation, mentions the necessity of destigmatising mental health.

“We need to normalise and humanise mental health,” Rabe said.