The Sociological Imagination and the Problems of University Students in African Countries: Discursive Essay

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1. Introduction

In this essay I will be discussing ‘The Sociological Imagination and the Problems of University Students in African Countries.’ Firstly, I will be defining the term ‘sociological imagination’ as well as defining personal problems and social issues and how they differentiate from one another. I will further discuss suicide within the youth and how it is a personal problem as well as a social issue.

2. The Sociological Imagination

The sociological imagination is a form of critical thinking, it is a term coined by C Wright Mills (1959) to describe the approach by which people could discern what affects them adversely in life which links the two poles of social understanding and analysis -the individual and society. It allows us to view somebody else’s society as an outsider would, rather than from our own experience and cultural biases, it allows us to differentiate between personal problems and public issues.

2.1. Personal and Public Issues

A personal problem is when an individual is experiencing problems themselves, it affects the individual and could affect the small group of people that surround that individual daily. A public problem is when large numbers of people are experiencing issues that are caused by the societal structure. A personal problem may become a public issue if a large number of people are affected by the same problem.

3. A Personal Problem Faced by Adam Seef

Adam Seef was a 19-year-old boy who matriculated from King David Linksfield. He was a prefect in matric with honours in academics, he had many friends and was loved by all of his peers. Once Adam had finished school, he went on to study medicine at the University of Witswatersrand. To all of us who knew Adam, he was one of the happiest people we could come across. This was until he was on his winter vacation on a program with friends in Israel when he tragically decided to take his own life. It was then that we all found out that he was struggling with extreme anxiety and depression. He was a perfectionist. He wanted the ‘perfect’ life, to have a wife and kids, the ‘perfect’ job - being a doctor. However, he could not come to terms with the fact that he was confused about his sexuality. He knew if he came to terms with this, he would not have a life that was considered perfect in the eyes of everyone else. Adam was dealing with all of these thoughts on his own. Nobody knew that he was severely depressed and suffering from immense anxiety. He kept it a secret from everyone. He kept these personal problems of depression, sexuality, anxiety and extreme pressure from society to act a certain way and achieve certain things to himself. Ultimately leading to his suicide. Suicide in the youth is a very big issue both personally and publicly.

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4. The Social Aspect Leading to Suicide

There are many personal factors that lead to suicide, such as depression, bullying, the pressure of society or even life at home. Everyone struggles with one of these factors, these issues often result to suicide, which is a huge issue around the world. Social pressure has one of the biggest impacts on our mental health. The pressure to act a certain way in front of certain people, to like certain things that you may not usually enjoy, even the pressure that heterosexuality is the norm and being part of LGBTQ+ is seen as different. “The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) states that nine percent of all teenage deaths are due to suicide in the age bracket of 15-24.” (Byrone Athman, 2020) The numbers are high and because there are so many people affected, this is no longer only a personal problem, it is a public issue as well. The problem with suicide is that often it is out of the persons control, their depression is so terrible, the pain they are feeling is so excruciating, they feel so alone that they think the only way to take it all away is to take their own life, they don’t think that there are any solutions to their issues, this is the only way out in their eyes.

“Depression is mankind’s oldest known brain disorder” (Yong-Ku Kim, 2018). Depression is one of the biggest problems faced by the youth of today’s society, it is not surprising that the most common motivation for suicide (70%) is to escape painful life circumstances, such as physical or psychological illness. Many people who commit suicide write notes for their loved ones to read, giving them an explanation as to why they did what they did, why they felt their life was not worth living, why they did not want to be alive anymore. “The predominant emotion expressed in the notes was love, but they also expressed a myriad of other emotions. Given the large percentage of note writers who were depressed, it was not surprisingly to find emotions expressed in the notes that were hallmarks of depression. Common emotions were feeling like a failure (17%), or feeling tired (12%), sad (9%), hopeless (7%), guilty (7%), or ashamed (5%).” (Cheryl L. Meyer, Taronish H. Irani, Katherine A. Hermes, Betty Yung, 2017). There are many solutions to these problems and ways to prevent suicide from happening.

5. Solutions to the Problems that Lead to Suicide

There needs to be more healthy awareness about mental health, often people are made to feel inferior when they are feeling unstable. Why should something so common be seen as something so taboo? Mental health is extremely important, and people should feel that it is okay not to be okay. By creating a safe place where people can be open; may it be in your home, in a school or work place, or even online, many people will feel more comfortable speaking about what is going through their minds if everyone learns how to care for these people. We will be more capable of helping these people and may even be able to save their lives. Knowing someone will listen and help you through the darkest of times without any judgement, with open arms and a caring heart, will makes it easier for people to speak about certain things, especially those surrounding mental health. A possible solution would be to provide platforms and procedures that allow for a more comfortable environment to be yourself – such as anonymous chat rooms. Having someone to talk to that is closer to your age and can relate to today’s times, as they have changed so much since our parent’s university days. We also need to be aware of the warning signs. “About 75% of those who die by suicide exhibit some form of suicide warning signs. It follows that we need to be aware of what exactly these suicide warning signs are and try to spot them in people, in order to be more proactive, as opposed to reactive, to the signs of suicide.” (Caruso, 2020)

6. Conclusion

Thus, suicide is a major problem facing university students in South Africa. this is evidently so due to the statistics of the youth of today that are facing severe mental health issues as well as that they are too scared or embarrassed to express their true state of mind. However, there are solutions to assist in these issues. With the help of utilizing the platforms already in place for members of the youth to express themselves but something of more vital importance is to create an environment in society where having mental health issues is not seen as a disability as opposed to the standard of what society has become, the sociological imagination helps us to see all of this.

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The Sociological Imagination and the Problems of University Students in African Countries: Discursive Essay. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from
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