The Ithemba Foundation


Newsletter December 2020


H♥PE, despite a Covid Christmas

As if the festive period is not normally loaded with a high level of anxiety, this year’s will require even more courage from many of us. Normally, holidays are difficult when one lives with a mental illness or has to “bear it out” when you have lost a loved one. Now, with the presence of a relentless virus that brought our planet to a standstill and many communities and individuals to their knees, the 2020 “festive” season will have even higher demands. Yet, we need to find skills to navigate this period ahead of us.

Those of us who were unfortunate to have contracted Covid-19 know what toll it took on our bodies. The majority, who were spared the virus, however, also know what the toll on our mental health is. “Covid fatigue” will go down in history books as something that affected all of humankind. It may even end up in future medical textbooks as a new syndrome.

But now the 2020 “festive” season is upon us. What can we do to survive the next few weeks and land on our feet, hopefully, for a better 2021?

In normal times, holidays have been challenging. It’s even more so if you live with a mental illness. If you are suffering bereavement, whether you lost your loved one a long time ago or recently, that devastatingly deep crater that wants to swallow you up, remains.

This time of year might become more difficult when it takes just one or two people around you to make you anxious. On this website you can get some tips when feeling overwhelmed: You might also experience a heightened sense of loneliness, despite all the busy-ness around you, or perhaps exactly because everyone is so ultra-busy. Here you can get some advice to cope with such feelings:

You might be newly bereaved, or you may be a veteran on your via dolorosa after you have suffered a loss that is difficult to live with. Give yourself space. Decide what gatherings will be good for you – or have the opposite effect. You, and only you, decide how you will survive this holiday season. Do not allow others to intimidate you with their expectations. Be kind to yourself. Allow yourself space and time. Others do not understand what emotional energy is required when you have to cope with bereavement and the utter sense of loneliness – in fact, trauma – because of your loss.

Decide with whom you will spend time and what you will be able to cope with. In fact, when you realise you should actually not have attended the family get-together, or any other occasion, give yourself the right to excuse yourself and leave. Do not suffer more suffering; you are suffering enough as it is.

During this time, also make sure you give yourself as much space as possible. First off, practise deep breathing, together with mindfulness. Both will contribute to a calm body and mind and alleviate anxiety and stress. Try and balance your need to be on your own, but also try and spend some time with family and friends. They will appreciate your presence and the majority will understand your situation. All in all, make sure you minimise your exposure to potential trauma – you already have to cope with enough.

For more advice, here is an article with tips to survive anxiety and depression: In the following article, a psychologist herself writes about the five things that helped her cope with grief during the holiday season: The Akeso psychiatric hospital chain offers this “Holiday mental health guide” to help you cope during the holiday season:


Early warning signs of depression

All the stressors we have been exposed to during this 2020 Covid year have left their mark on body and soul. To ensure you recognise the first signs that “Covid fatigue” might develop into a biological, clinical illness, such as depression or anxiety, there are early warning signs that you can look out for. Check yourself or a loved one and seek medical help as soon as possible. These symptoms won’t go away. In fact, they will, with a 100% certainty, become worse. Among others, look out for: irritability, insomnia, reduced energy, increased fatigue, interrupted sleep, tension, anxiety, early morning waking and a decrease in sleep duration. Read more on


Thank you for a wonderful (albeit different) 2020 Hope Hike and Bike!

Psychologists and psychiatrists are unanimous about the mental toll that Covid-19 is taking on every member of society. Even if you were lucky enough not to have contracted the virus itself and fallen physically ill, the virus affects all of us on a mental level. Which just means we need a supercharged dose of hope ... Which is what this year’s virtual Hope Hike and Bike offered.

Ithemba is grateful to all our traditional supporters, who entered either the Cape or Northern event previously, who this year so enthusiastically took part in the virtual event, as well as our new Hope Hikers and Bikers who decided to join in the virtual Hope Hike or Bike for the very first time because it could literally be done anywhere. We welcome all of you, and HOPE, of course, to see you next year again.

Thank you to all of you: Your entry fee has made a difference and will contribute to supporting research into mental health.

And the Fitbit winners are...

There was huge excitement when the Hope Hike and Hope Bike’s Fitbit lucky draw was done “live” on Facebook by Ithemba’s social media manager, Jana van Rensburg, and even more so when the winners received their spunky, all-in-one fitness device and watch.

Winners were scattered all over the country, from Bloemfontein to Stellenbosch, and Pretoria to Pietermaritzburg. The thank you letters dropped in when the prizes arrived, such as “Dear Ithemba, Thank you so much for my prize. This is super awesome! See you next year!” And: “Baie, baie, baie, dankie. Dit was vet pret. Dit is ’n vreeslike oulike klein kompakte horlosie. Ek oefen nou dat die stof staan.”

Despite Jana ensuring that the names were mixed well, it was a special lucky day for two households, with a husband and wife winning, as well as a father and daughter. The winners are Laurika Swart, Esme Rossouw, Kirstin-Lee Uys, couple Marlene and Rudi Oosthuizen, Jürgen Kühne and Simóne Kühne (father and daughter), Nelia van der Walt, Amandy de Ridder and Isabella Human.

Lastly, thank you to all our faithful Ithemba supporters. Have a safe holiday season. Most of all: Please take care of yourself and your mental health.



ITHEMBA FOUNDATION - NPC 2012/171250/08 - PBO 930/048/019