Legal Aid South Africa and Next Chapter
As the founder of a student-led nonprofit organisation, Next Chapter, Tshepang Mahlatsi, 28, has undertaken several initiatives to promote mental health awareness within schools, churches and student accommodations. Tshepang is a law graduate from the University of the Free State, but he has dedicated most of his university years to promoting mental health on and outside of the campus. He is also undertaking his articles as a candidate attorney this year with Legal Aid. With his Next Chapter team, Tshepang has engaged in dialogues on the available mental health services through print, radio and social media platforms. Through Next Chapter, Tshepang collaborated with the Free State department of health on outreach campaigns targeting young people. Tshepang is part of the movement of changing the narrative of mental health being a taboo topic in black communities. Mental health affects anyone, regardless of race, religion, wealth or social status. He actively participates in mental health policy debates, such as the UFS mental health policy. “As a researcher and research participant, I am involved in various research projects examining student well-being. I have also been invited to share my experience and offer advice on mental health de-stigmatisation in talks due to my mental health history,” he says.
- Bachelor of Law (LLB) University of the Free State
- Mental Health, Mindfulness, and Self-Care (Short Course)
- University of the Free State
- Master of Laws (LLM) candidate University of the Free State. Dissertation title: Labour Laws’ Response to Depression in Frontline Workers During the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Awards Top 50 young inspiration youth Free Staters (2022) University of the Free State Student Affairs Lifetime Leadership Award (2019)
- I presented two abstracts at academic conferences: one on the topic of protecting medical personnel from psychological harm during Covid-19 at the Seventh International Mercantile Law Conference, and another on sustainable universities at the South African Association for Education Research Association conference.
- I was a panellist at the Youth Alliance Leadership and Development in Africa webinar, discussing mental health as a global priority.
- In 2021, I spoke at the Higher and Further Education Disability Services Association virtual symposium about creating safer communities for students with invisible disabilities.
- I was a panellist at the Southern African Association for Institutional Research conference, discussing well-being in higher education.
- In 2019 and 2018, I participated in two symposiums: one on sanitation infrastructure at public primary schools in South Africa, and another on mental health care and prevention in Botswana. Media Coverage
- In 2019, I was a guest on SABC Morning News, discussing “Coping with the transition from school to university.”
- In 2018, I was a guest on the Real Talk Show on SABC 3, where I spoke about the importance of mental health advocacy and my role.
- In 2020, I appeared on Hectic Nine 9 on SABC 2, discussing mental health advocacy and Covid.
- My work on mental health has featured in numerous print, online, and website publications.
The image of my hardworking family leaving for their daily responsibilities has always inspired me. Watching them work tirelessly to provide for us taught me the value of hard work and has motivated me to pursue my goals with the same level of commitment, especially as a first-generation student.
I am writing to you from your late twenties. I have seen and changed a lot due to circumstances. Please don’t stop dreaming and working on yourself. This world requires patience, discipline, and practical street smarts. Mental health is real, especially depression. We may have achieved a lot, but it took a toll on us. Be kind, and gentle, and speak out when facing challenges.
Your older self
This South Africa will prioritise responding to societal needs, investing in young people, and developing employment opportunities. It will use political power to improve the lives of ordinary citizens, make education fashionable (access being a priority), and provide funding opportunities for deserving entrepreneurs. I envision a future where opportunities are not reserved for those with political affiliations, and the country will thrive through the contributions of its talented and dedicated citizens.
Despite the current political and economic challenges, South Africa still has immense potential, with its young and motivated population eager to contribute to resolving societal issues and addressing the needs of citizens. However, these challenges have resulted in a loss of patriotism among the youth.