By Prof Lizette Rabe, Ithemba Foundation founding director
If depression and related mental ill-health, such as anxiety disorders, are the illnesses of despair, we need to create hope by raising awareness through public education that mental illnesses, as physical ones, can be treated. By realising the typical symptoms of mental distress earlier, one can get treatment sooner, whether through cognitive behavioural therapy by a psychologist, or medical interventions by a psychiatrist.
Ithemba means hope in isiXhosa, and if depression is the illness of despair, we need to create hope. Ithemba’s two public benefit goals are raising awareness of depression and related diseases as biological, clinical diseases, and therefore treatable, and to support research, as statistics show that mental health research lags far behind that of physical health.
The negative impact of our 21st century digital lifestyle can be seen in every age group and every layer of society. Mental health spend has increased by 87% in the years between 2011 and 2016, reaching R2 bn in 2016. Hospitalisation claims amounted to R32 m more than predicted. Depression contributed to over 40% of the overall mental health disease burden.
One can safely say that these figures have since increased. One researcher stressed that the statistics represent only the tip of the “mental health iceberg”, as they only reflect mental healthcare for those who can afford private medical care. Indeed, studies have shown that mental illness is much higher among poorer populations who have the least access to mental healthcare and cannot afford medical aid.
This is why each of us needs to become an “Ambassador of Hope”. We can make a difference. Look out for the tell-tale signs of emotional distress in yourself or your partner, child, friend, colleague, class or team mate. They include irritability, lack of concentration, and changes in your sleeping or eating pattern – get more information on typical symptoms on https://ithembafoundation.org.za/page/understanding-depression.php.
Importantly: Become an “Ambassador of Hope” by speaking up and speaking out, thereby breaking the silence and the stigma around mental health. Let’s take the “I” out of illness and replace it with “we” for wellness. Become a Hope Ambassador by participating in our activities. You can also make a difference by making a donation. As a public benefit organisation you can get an Article 18A certificate for tax purposes. As Gandhi has said: “You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”
The Ithemba Foundation is a non-profit organisation with the public benefit goals of raising awareness of depression as a biological illness and raising funds for research on depression. Ithemba Foundation was founded in 2012 by the parents of three young people who lost their lives to depression.
Depression is an illness of despair and the only way to fight despair is by fostering hope. The name ‘Ithemba’ was chosen as it is the isiXhosa word for hope. Ithemba encourages everyone to play their part in spreading hope by talking openly about depression and thereby breaking down the stigma that often surrounds mental illnesses.
Professor Lizette Rabe will present a workshop on writing as a form of therapy for mental health issues. Writing is a recognised way to deal with trauma and loss, regardless of your writing skills. Professor Rabe is the author of Om tot verhaal te kom and also a founding member of Ithemba Foundation. At the workshop, participants will be able to purchase Professor Rabe’s book, as well as other Ithemba merchandise. This session will only be presented in Afrikaans.
|Time:||10:00 – 12:00 (please arrive at 9:30 to register)|
|Venue:||Adam Small Theatre Complex, cnr Victoria and Andringa Streets, Stellenbosch|
|Cost:||R225 per person (includes coffee and a muffin)|
|Book your ticket at:|
The Crazy Socks for Docs campaign aims to create awareness of the mental health issues faced by health professionals. You can join in the campaign by wearing a crazy or mismatched pair of socks on 7 June to show your support for the mental health and wellbeing of health professionals, including doctors, nurses, paramedics, and more.
The purpose of Crazy Socks for Docs is to create awareness about the highly stressful nature of the medical profession and the need for doctors to seek medical health help when needed, both mental and physical. Take a selfie of yourself in your crazy socks on 7 June and post it to social media using the hashtag #crazysocksfordocs or #CS4D.
Crazy Socks for Docs was started by Australian doctor Dr Geoffrey Toogood in 2016 to get people to talk about mental illness in the medical profession. Ithemba is a proud supporter of this international initiative and we encourage all our friends to show their support in a pair of crazy socks on 7 June 2019.
The annual Hope Hike and Hope Bike events aim to raise awareness of depression as a clinical illness. The first official Hope Hike took place on 14 October 2012 and since then it has grown into an annual occurrence, with Hike and Bike events in the Cape and Gauteng. The aim of these events is to walk, cycle, roll (there are wheelchair-friendly routes in Gauteng) and talk about mental illness in order to break down stigmas.
Save the dates for the 2019 Hope Hike and Hope Bike events in advance:
Ithemba Foundation raises much-needed funds for research into depression and related mental illnesses. For the full list of research supported by our funds, click here. Here’s a look at two recent studies:
(PhD Psychiatry, Stellenbosch University)
Dr Lindi Martin’s research explored the individual and combined effects of childhood maltreatment and anxiety proneness on the neurocognition and emotion processing of South African teenagers.
“South Africa is a developing country, where many children and adolescents are exposed to poverty, violence and trauma, which are all risk factors for poor child and adolescent mental health. The findings from my research highlight the importance of screening teenagers for childhood maltreatment experiences and anxiety-related traits, as this will aid in identifying those in need of support and treatment,” says Dr Martin.
Dr Martin’s study also emphasised the importance of early intervention, with a particular focus on the prevention of childhood maltreatment, the reduction of anxiety-related traits, the improvement of neurocognitive skills and psychological wellbeing in youth.
The results of Dr Martin’s research have been published in a number of academic journals over the past five years and have also been presented at numerous conferences. “The journals and conferences in which study findings were presented reach a wide audience of which a substantial number are those working in the mental health field with at-risk youth,” she says.
According to Dr Martin, Ithemba Foundation provided valuable financial support for her study. “In addition, I received much support from Prof Lizette Rabe, as we communicated frequently about the progress of my study. I am very grateful for her positive influence.”
(PhD Psychiatry, Stellenbosch University)
Dr Jaco Rossouw’s research set out to investigate whether treatments originally developed for adults in high-income settings for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and comorbid depression could be utilised for treating South African adolescents.
Adolescence is a developmental stage commonly associated with increased risk for exposure to trauma, especially in violence-prone areas of Cape Town. Prolonged exposure (PE) was chosen as the trauma-focused intervention and supportive counselling (SC) as the non-trauma-focused intervention. In both cases, the treatment was provided by nurses (non-specialist health providers).
“The research powerfully demonstrated that both PE and SC are effective - with PE being significantly more effective than SC - in the treatment of both PTSD and depression in the South African adolescent population, when provided by non-specialist health providers,” says Dr Rossouw.
Ithemba Foundation provided invaluable financial aid for this research, as a randomised controlled trial (RCT) study requires considerable financial assistance. The money invested in this research had the dual benefit of increasing knowledge of adolescent depression, as well as directly helping vulnerable South African teenagers.
“A total of 75 adolescents who did not previously have access to psychological intervention were provided with treatment and the majority of them responded to treatment. The feedback from them and their educators was that this made a significant difference in their lives,” says Dr Rossouw.
ITHEMBA FOUNDATION - NPC 2012/171250/08 - PBO 930/048/019