Botswana (University of Botswana) Two Bachelor of Psychology Students Take to Radio to Spotlight, Destigmatise Mental Health

Two third-year Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology students have taken to the radio to shine a light on mental health with the aim of breaking the stigma. Rebecca Phaswana and Michelle Olorato Simon feature on Gabz FM’s Moments of Zen show with host, Kodjo Musey, between 10 am and 11 am on Sundays to tackle mental health challenges and educate the public to create awareness and destigmatize mental health.

They speak to UB News about their experience so far but first they introduce themselves:

Rebecca: My name is Rebecca Phaswana. I am a third-year student at the University of Botswana pursuing my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Sociology. For as long as I can remember, I have always been curious about the way people’s minds work. From criminals to neurodivergence to neurotypicals, I needed to understand what drives people to think and behave the way they do. For me, studying Psychology was imminent. The more psychology books I read, the more interested I became in issues surrounding mental health. I was astonished at how passive people could be towards anything to do with mental health. That’s when I decided that, I wanted to be a mental health activist; to shine a light on the challenges many of us go through on a daily basis but more importantly to break the stigma and start an honest and open conversation about all things mental health. That is what led me to Gabz FM. Being a part of the Moments of Zen team has allowed me the platform to speak on something I am truly passionate about while helping to educate people all over Botswana. I have never been good at speaking in front of large crowds so radio was a perfect fit for me; not to mention my wonderful colleagues who open my eyes to different things every day. I am very excited to see where this will lead me but for now, I am just happy that Batswana are becoming more cognisant of mental health.

Michelle: My name is Michelle Olorato Simon, I am 20 years old. I am a youth advocate for young women and girls. I am a student at the University of Botswana doing my third year, currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology. I have been assisting at Gabz FM since the month of June 2021 as a way of boosting my future career and to be able to share the knowledge I have on mental health issues. I joined Gabz FM to learn about radio and how information is disseminated on several health issues. My expectations from  Gabz FM are to learn and spread information on mental health issues, to assist in raising awareness on issues affecting our community and to learn how radio is run and what it takes to provide reliable and accurate information. My work at Gabz FM has taught me better ways to research and provide information and it has helped me to become aware of issues of cultural sensitivity.

UB News: How long are you with Gabz FM and how did you get to know about the programme and what did you do exactly to feature in the programme?

Rebecca: I’ve been there since July 2021. I originally sent a proposal to have my own show about mental health but I was told there was one already, but I could speak to Joe if I wanted to join. I’m not sure how long I’ll be there. We will see where this road leads.

Michelle: A flexible time plan has been set for my tie at Gabz FM and I discovered about the show through a friend who works at Gabz FM then I had a meeting with Joe to decide if I’m the right fit for the show.

UB News: And you spoke to Joe, what was his initial response and what do you think convinced him to take you in?

Rebecca: He was on board from the get-go. I think he was convinced because what I initially wanted to do was very much in line with what he was already doing.

Michelle: He was honestly excited to have me on air with him, I demonstrated a strong skill of knowledge and dedication.

UB News: That’s cool. Last time you were just observing but what exactly do you do during the show?

Rebecca: I produced that show. Basically, preparing the topic, finding any information and facts we might need and sort of directing the conversation while still allowing for it to be an actual conversation. Between myself and Michelle, I produce one week while she features on the show. And then the next week we swap.

UB News: By featuring you mean hosting/anchoring it, like talking on the radio?

Rebecca: Yes!

UB News: What do you plan to do after completing your studies?

Rebecca: I haven’t quite decided exactly which path I’d like to take, but I’m very interested in criminal psychology/child psychology.

Michelle: My future prospects are honestly still under work but who knows I might branch into business and venture into the world of humanitarian work.