Mental health advocate’s YouTube channel helps peers

After taking note of several suicides on campus every year and little mental health support from the university authorities, a student at Zimbabwe’s National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Lancelot Matange Jnr, decided in 2019 to take action to prevent the unnecessary loss of lives.

The civil and water engineering university student, now in his final year, started mental health awareness campaigns with the main message ‘No to suicide’. Through his work on campus, Matange also started a YouTube channel, ELITE TV, focusing on students’ issues.

“I realised that NUST records cases of suicides each year, so the idea was to talk to students about the issues concerning suicide which are usually ignored. I opened a platform for them to participate.

“Mental health is a big problem on campus. It also leads to drug abuse, so I aim to minimise the impact through my campaigns. I realised that the main causes of suicide and drug abuse are finances, academics and social aspects like relationships, so there is a need to invest a lot in such campaigns to save lives,” Matange said.

Since he is a mental health advocate on campus, many students approach him to seek help. But if the issue is financial, there is not much he can do.

Information dissemination is lacking

Matange said there is a need to open more platforms such as on WhatsApp to allow students to talk about issues troubling them. He said that, now, his work is restricted to his university, but he hopes to take his programmes to other universities in the country.

“I also created my YouTube channel after realising that there was a big gap at our institution concerning information dissemination concerning the social welfare of students. I had to fill the gap through a movement called Takachilla which impacted on a lot of students at NUST, and that I hope to expand to other tertiary institutions, too,” he said.

Matange said he also offers career guidance because of the need on campus. “I spent one full academic year doing architectural studies at NUST and later realised that I had taken the wrong path. I was not passionate about architecture. It is, indeed, a very good programme, but, with my mathematics and physics background, I was not very passionate about it.

“My first choice during application was civil engineering, then medicine. I put architecture as my last option thinking they would not give a maths, physics, and chemistry student architecture, only to realise otherwise. Although architecture includes some aspects of civil engineering, it is just not the same,” Matange said.

Saving students from mistakes

That experience gave rise to his Degree Programme Insight plan. “I had an opportunity to change direction as I had good grades, but it affected me mentally thinking of all the fees my parents had paid for one year. Also, my dad passed during that time.

“I asked my mother and she allowed me to start a new programme that I was passionate about and now I’m going for my final year. That’s where Degree Programme Insight was born, because I didn’t want other prospective students to go through what I went through.”

Matange said he interviews various students from different faculties about their degree programmes. He said students have applauded his initiative as helpful and urged him to spread it across the country. If he gets financial aid, he will publish and upload more videos of the outcome of that work, Matange said.

He also runs a university election watch programme in which he interviews prospective student leaders. He said he asks them about the welfare of students, what they are going to do when they are elected to office, and the details of their manifestos while other students are listening, usually in WhatsApp groups during election time at NUST.

“These interviews have been helping students to choose the right candidates for various ministries who would boldly represent them on various issues at varsity,” he explained.

“I also started the graduation ceremony interviews in 2019 after realising that a lot of students dropped out during their programmes. So the interviews are there to inspire other students. I would interview students about how they made it, and who inspired them, which will, in the end, encourage a lot of students to continue pushing.

“I interview the parents also about the challenges they face during their children’s studies, which encourages parents out there to continue financing their children.”