Transforming Mental Health Support for Students at Strathmore


In Kenya, within the bustling academic environment of universities, there exists a significant but often overlooked issue: mental health challenges among students. Despite the apparent vibrancy of campus life, a substantial number of youths silently struggle with these challenges, underscoring the need for greater awareness and support systems within the educational sector. Amidst the challenges faced by Kenyan universities, there’s a growing awareness of mental health issues, spurred by troubling instances of depression and suicide among students. In light of this, Strathmore University has taken proactive steps to address this pressing concern. Through its newly launched Peer Counsellor Training program, aimed at empowering 18 students, the university is leading the way in reshaping the conversation around mental health on campus. This initiative signals a significant stride towards creating a supportive and inclusive environment for all students.

A pivotal moment unfolded as the students from the 15th Student Council and Mental Health Club emerged from a rigorous three-day training program on April 14, 2024. Spearheaded by psychologists from the Strathmore University Medical Centre (SUMC) in collaboration with the Office of the Dean of Students, this endeavour marks a resolute commitment to nurturing mental well-being within the university community. “Psychological first aid works with the same principles as regular first aid, to look for any signs of distress, listen to what is happening, and link any person through relevant channels of help,” explains Oscar Odhiambo, a psychologist at the Strathmore University Medical Centre.

Throughout the intensive training sessions, these students embarked on a journey of self-discovery and empowerment. Immersed in a comprehensive curriculum, they were equipped with the tools and knowledge necessary to serve as effective peer counsellors. From mastering basic counselling techniques to exploring professional ethics, crisis intervention strategies, and suicide prevention methods, their training left no stone unturned. Yet, beyond the technical skills, the program emphasized the power of empathy and connection. Communication skills were honed to perfection, enabling these budding counsellors to forge meaningful bonds with their peers in need. Armed with problem-solving techniques and a deep understanding of mental health literacy, they stand ready to navigate the stormy seas of adversity alongside their fellow students.

“I found myself immersed in a transformative learning experience. I was initially nervous about my ability to connect with and support my peers, but as the training progressed, my confidence grew. Through role-playing exercises and group discussions I learned essential counselling techniques and communication skills,” attests Christine Ngugi, one of the graduates from the Peer Counselling Training. She further said the experience was invaluable and she not only feels equipped to provide peer support but also gained a deeper understanding of herself.

For Frankline Mochengo, President of Strathmore’s 15th Student Council, the successful completion of this rigorous training program symbolizes not only the dedication of these students to bolstering the well-being of their peers but also underscores the collaborative endeavour between academic institutions and mental health professionals in fostering a culture of care and support within the university community.

As these newly minted peer counsellors step into their roles, they carry with them not only knowledge and skills but also a profound sense of compassion. They are the harbingers of change, the guardians of hope in a world too often marred by despair. In initiatives like this, we glimpse the promise of a brighter future; a future where empathy reigns supreme, and no student suffers in silence.

Article written by Stephen Wakhu

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