Purpose: This paper presents a reflection, rooted in theory and practice, on the effect and challenges of social isolation on undergraduate students in South Africa during covid-19 lockdown; strategies that were implemented to help them cope and the potential of peer to peer support groups in mental health management and promotion.
Design/methodology/approach: This paper is based on an intervention project undertaken for the University of the Western Cape’s Faculty of Arts Undergraduate Teaching and learning – “The writer’s Clinic”. A participatory health approach was adopted. The outcomes from the project include two case studies, based on an agenda that is underpinned by the need to implement an optimal mental health management model for students. The project will ultimately produce a set of recommendations for mental health advocacy.
Findings: There is reliable evidence to justify the significance of peer social network/support as a coping mechanism during covid-19 lockdown; peer social support fostered a sense of community in which young people could share points of view and provide emotional, informational and instrumental support to peers. Research limitations/implications: Poor access to internet connectivity/data, smartphones, laptops and a small sample size.
Originality/value: The social network and support framework is used as an analytical tool to explore the effects of a peer to peer support group on mental health management, and to suggest possibilities for advocacy.
Keywords: Covid-19, Action Research, Social Determinants, Social Support, Health Promotion