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The anthropological understanding of depression and attached social constructs amongst university students: the case study of UKZN-PMB.

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Through the Cognitive Theory of Depression, Narrative Theory and the Social Constructivism Theory, this interpretive/phenomenological qualitative anthropological study purposively sampled twenty-six (25) UKZN-PMB students to explore means and understanding associated with depression. To achieve objectives of the study, this study anchored itself in linguistic and cultural anthropology to understand the power of language and cultural epistemologies that are attached on the expression and the interpretation of depression which this study has proved to be the experience of UKZN-PMB students. This study revealed that the use of cultural language depicts cultural reflexivity which anthropologists recognise as a unique trait of people’s identity and ability to socialize. This study thus contributes social constructs which are cultural epistemologies or narratives which UKZN students have own as their language to express the state of being depressed. Social constructs that were revealed and explored in this study showed that depression cannot only be understood from the lens of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), but also through emic/explanatory models that convey the impact or the extent of depression on university students. Such cultural constructs are contributed not only in the body of literature but should also inform responsive cultural interventions which UKZN as institution may adopt to become proactive and intentional about assisting its students. This study thus concludes by recommending a holistic approach (which observes social constructs that emerged in this this study) when designing and implementing of awareness programmes towards an in-depth understanding of depression amongst UKZN students. The student support services should have pop-up messages or billboards using these social constructs in order to invite students for immediate interventions. e.g. ✓ uma uzizwa ukuthi uyaGOWISHA we are here to help you or to provide any academic/therapeutic support. ✓ uma uzizwa ukuthi awukhoni, trust that the university student support service centre is here to help you pull through. More anthropological research is also suggested as follows: ✓ within the context of Covid-19 is recommended. ✓ probing why UKZN male students are not comfortable to talk about depression.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.