Gaborone — Challenges affecting adolescents and youth's mental health have resulted in the resuscitation of the Youth Counselling on Air (YOCA) programme.
The programme, in limbo since 2014 due to financial constraints, has been upgraded to YOCA+ to provide young people with psycho-social support.
Unlike its predecessor, YOCA+ would in addition to telephone counselling, provide to face-to-face counselling on referral.
A Ministry of Youth Empowerment Sport and Culture Development, Ministry of Basic Education and the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAHPA) collaboration, the revamped programme was launched in Gaborone on Tuesday.
Speaking at the event, youth empowerment minister Mr Tumiso Rakgare said young people continued to be engulfed by challenges of unemployment, gender-based violence (GBV) and unsafe sexual practices.
The COVID-19 pandemic also brought along mental health challenges including stress, anxiety, depression, trauma due to loss of family members among others, he said.
Mr Rakgare said the challenges were taxing and had put pressure on the emotional ability of adolescents and youth to function in different spheres of life.
The minister said YOCA+ would afford the youth services administered by youth-friendly professional counsellors.
"They will create a conducive environment for the youth to freely talk about their challenges and emotions," he said.
Services would include counselling, psycho-education and linking young people with other youth programmes to enhance their emotional well-being, said Mr Rakgare.
It will cater for the 9-35 age group.
Minister Rakgare stressed the need for joint efforts to make the initiative a success and to continue reaching out to the youth.
Giving the programme's background, Department of Special Support Services acting director Ms Rejoice Ramokate said the initiative had been in existence since 2011.
With the help of World Bank funding, the then Ministry of Education and Skills Development used to provide psychosocial support to HIV/AIDS infected and affected learners and teachers, she said.
Ms Ramokate said with the expiration of the World Bank funding contract in 2014, the programme had to be halted.
She said when COVID-19 broke out, the youth and basic education ministries decided to collaborate on providing psychosocial support using the YOCA concept.
Source : BOPA