Tshepang Mahlatsi Launches The Next Chapter To Empower Youth


Next Chapter


Tshepang Laurence Mahlatsi (22), a third year student studying towards his Bachelors of Laws (LLB) degree at the University of the Free State (UFS), has founded Next Chapter, a programme that addresses mental health issues amongst the youth.

Mahlatsi was diagnosed with depression in 2016, triggered by his leadership role during the #FeesMustFall campaign. He says: “It was quite a horrific experience. Encounters with the university police and at the same time fulfilling our campaign obligations, created many diverse emotions. I suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and also lost valued people during this time, which lead to an even deeper depression, to the point that I dropped out of law school.”

Next Chapter was created as a result of this life-changing event. He explains: “Although I had support when depression hit me, I realised that not enough is being done or said about mental health. I find that, even today, this topic isn’t broached, especially in black communities. I was motivated further by numerous actual suicides as well as suicide attempts at the university, which saddened me. The university environment is not healthy, with so much happening that can persuade a person to drop out or lead an unhealthy, unbalanced lifestyle. Let’s take a first-year student who has never been exposed to a city. It’s a busy lifestyle with loads of freedom as well as academic pressure, which most of these students haven’t been exposed to. They are faced with an identity crisis and fitting in, which becomes quite overwhelming and has the potential of causing mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. This is where Next Chaptercomes into play – we offer structured group therapy and peer support for each other,” says Mahlatsi.

Mahlatsi believes it is imperative for young adults to become more aware of mental health. “We need to teach this early on to our youth, as today’s generation is more vulnerable. We’re becoming a generation of people who are not emotionally equipped to deal with all the challenging facets of life. We have situations where young men and women aren’t able communicate in relationships, and then turn to abusive behaviour. We need to learn to take care of our emotional health in the same way as we do our physical health. They go hand in hand,” he says.

Setting up the Next Chapterhas been a demanding, yet enjoyable experience for Mahlatsi and his team. “Together with my team, we’re always invited to speak to students and share advice and support.  Attendance to our talks and group therapy sessions are very interesting, as this has grown into a large community in less than eight months,” Mahlatsi adds proudly.

This month our country celebrates National Youth Month, and the Next Chapter is perfectly positioned to assist youth with their mental health issues. “Our primary goal is to see this movement grow into our communities and other institutions. We want to save our young people and break the generational stigma attached to mental health. We want to get people talking and empower and strengthen our youth, not just during National Youth Month, but also for many years to come,” he explains.

Mahlatsi has been living at CampusKey since 2017. “CampusKey is the place for me and more importantly, my condition. I’m a person who enjoys and values my space and there is no other student accommodation that can offer me that. In one of the interviews earlier this year, I was asked why I enjoy my own space, yet am in the public eye. My response was that I’m loyal to the calling to make a difference. It requires me to go into the world to serve and once I have served, I can return to my own space, my small little world at CampusKey.”

Leon Howell, MD of CampusKey, adds: “CampusKey, the premier provider of secure student accommodation in South Africa, is delighted to support Mahlatsi’s Next Chapter. We’re excited to be able to contribute and support this initiative, and empower young students. They are the leaders of tomorrow!”

Next Chapter will forever be grateful for the support they are getting from their official sponsor, CampusKey Student Living, “Our association is still new and some companies do not see the importance of investing in programmes that speak on mental health as yet, but CampusKey Student Living does. We have achieved a lot thus far! We don’t need to worry about where we host our sessions. They also assist with our marketing and are always willing to print and copy whatever we need,” says Mahlatsi.

Not only is this young man leading Next Chapter, but is also the the Chairperson of Students for Law and Social Justice (SLSJ) at the University of the Free State.

Mahlatsi concludes: “I personally feel as if I haven’t done much yet. I want to do more in serving humanity. I live by this motto: ‘I’m not saying I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world’ by Tupac Shakur.”

Visit Facebook: Next-Chapter for more info or phone 0849927400 

Cover image by Studio M Photography