The Ithemba Foundation


Newsletter June 2021


Things fall apart … but hold on to HOPE


You might know the quotation “Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold”. The original is from a Yeats poem from way back, but it was made famous by the title of award-winning Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe’s book Things fall apart. It refers to things falling apart, literally and figuratively. How the centre just cannot withstand the pressures anymore. In other words: It describes exactly how we feel right now, and how the “centre” just cannot “hold” anymore; that things are falling apart. In fact: Things are spiralling into chaos.

Especially now, under the Third Wave of this so unwelcome guest that has made itself at home for the past sixteen months and the immense impact on every aspect of our lives.

Indeed, we are all suffering from Covid burnout. Yes, many of us are fortunate that we did not catch the infectious virus, or lose a loved one. Or our livelihoods. Or our health, because Long Covid is another reality.

But, for all of us, the reality is that “things are falling apart”. That “the centre cannot hold” anymore. But the centre must hold. And you and I must ensure that “Covid burnout” does not get the better of us. So, we have to hold on to hope.

What to do?

If you feel you cannot cope anymore, please see your doctor. Burnout symptoms can turn into serious mental health conditions. Have a look at the Mayo Clinic’s website to see what general burnout symptoms are and what you can do to counter them before they start to become a major burden in your life.

Burnout is “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity”. What is called “brain fog” – a feeling of being enveloped by a total “fog”, even forgetting simple things – is also part of what we are experiencing under Covid-19. Some of the typical burnout symptoms are lack of concentration, being irritable, lack of energy, overtiredness, experiencing dizziness and feeling disillusioned, along with physical symptoms such as headaches or other physical complaints.

Please visit your GP to have your symptoms checked before they develop into a serious mental health condition. And remember, sometimes the smallest action can make you feel better. On this website there is a toolkit with 5-minute, 10-minute, 30-minute, etc, “pauses”, in which you can try to reload some energy by literally taking a breather.

Please also acknowledge the physical fall-out of what is known as Long Covid. A study published in the journal PM&R found that almost 50% of people hospitalised with Covid-19 in the US experienced lasting damage. Long Covid is defined as the “lingering effects of Covid that continue for weeks or months after the initial infection”. The good news is that a South African research team now also focuses on Long Covid. Stellenbosch University’s Professor Resia Pretorius and her team are seeking “Long Covid” volunteers to complete an online registry. For those living in the greater Cape Town area and Cape Winelands, you might also want to contribute to the study by donating a blood sample. For more information, go to Professor Pretorius’s research page on

* Disclaimer: All medical information is for educational and informational objectives only. Please contact your doctor to enquire about your own health matters.


Breaking the stigma – one sock at a time!


Ithemba’s annual #CrazySocks4Docs campaign was a tremendous success – thanks to you! The campaign attracted participation from all over: the general public, healthcare workers, students, schools and hospitals. Even canines donned their funky #CS4D.

The campaign connects awareness raising and advocacy with the third “a”, namely action, to really make a difference, and, literally, to walk the talk in our fun and funky socks to start the conversation about mental health among our healthcare workers (see

The stressors which healthcare workers are exposed to range from burnout to serious illnesses such as depression – even developing to a life-threatening stage. Indeed, there is truth in the saying that suicide is an occupational hazard for physicians.

We MUST break the silence and the stigma around healthcare workers’ mental health – they are not superbeings. And that is exactly why we, as the public, must show we #Care4OurCarers, from those keeping the wards clean to the top specialists in their fields.

Meanwhile, a number of students on South African health sciences campuses have won themselves a lovely cash prize by posting their sockselfies and asking the world and its mate to “like” them. The sockselfie with the most likes on each campus won her/his owner a welcome R1 000. These students are: Didintle Nash Edmunds (Wits), Naledi Bohlale Mohale (UCT), Alwizo C Jood (SU), Nonsindiso Xulu (UKZN), Akona Ndisile (UP), Nandipha Mama'Ricah Nkuna (Sefako Makgatho), Thitu Vo Volwethu (WSU) and Lungile Mshwana (Limpopo). Congratulations! And please make a difference by breaking the silence among your peers!


HOPEtober: Save the date!


October offers many opportunities to get active while you raise awareness of depression and mental health.

  • Hope Hike and Hope Bike 2021
    With the only certainty currently the fact that everything is uncertain, Ithemba asks you to save the date for our annual Hope Hike and Hope Bike on Sunday, 3 October. This event aims to raise awareness around depression and related diseases, and, importantly, to not only normalise and humanise mental health, but also understand that illnesses such as depression are clinical, treatable diseases. Of course, this event also raises funds for Ithemba’s bursary scheme to support research into mental health from both the psychological as well as the psychiatric field. If possible, we HOPE to see you on Sunday, 3 October, for the Hope Hike and Bike on beautiful Blaauwklippen on the R44 just outside of Stellenbosch. And of course, we also HOPE those of you elsewhere, in the country (and the world), will participate virtually. The distances are 3 km, 5 km or 10 km for the hikers, and 25 km for the bikers. And of course, there will once again be nice prizes up for grabs. So, whatever the state of Covid at the time: Save the date to do your bit to contribute to raising awareness around the importance of mental health and raise funds for research. For more information, click here.

  • The Cape Town Marathon
    The world-renowned Cape Town Marathon will be held on 17 October, and we HOPE Ithemba supporters will participate on behalf of Ithemba. Yes, you can run the whole marathon, but most of us will be doing the Peace10, which you can walk or run. Although, we are proud to say, we already have at least two marathon runners, namely Erns Grundling and his wife Katharien, who will be running the 42,2 km and raising funds for Ithemba with every step they take through their GivenGain fundraising portal. And Ithemba founder Lizette Rabe is opening support for this year’s campaign with R10 000. But, of course, you can do the Peace10 (or marathon), wherever you are. Just send your name to, and we will inform you how to pay the charity entry amount of 42.2 km club runners R360, 10 km club runners R130 and 5 km R80 – and how to start your own GivenGain platform to encourage family and friends to support you and raise funds for Ithemba. The events – if they can take place in person – will start at the Cape Town Stadium, but you can do the virtual run wherever you are. The Peace10 stretches along the Atlantic Seaboard.


And then, some adventures

  • The Namib100
    You might remember that Ithemba founder Professor Lizette Rabe and her husband Anton Hörstmann walked the Namib100 (ok, a little more than 100 kilometres to be precise) to pre-raise awareness of our #CS4D campaign. Well, it was an absolute once-in-a-lifetime experience. And they would go back tomorrow if they could. Even though one will not be able to call it a once-in-a-lifetime experience anymore, because it would then be a twice-in-a-lifetime experience. But to anyone who is looking for that total breakaway from yourself, this is the ultimate. It’s you, your feet, the sand, the dunes, the sea, the sky, the horizon, the seals, the seabirds, and yes, the skeletons (it’s the Skeleton Coast after all). When Lizette and Anton now go for their daily walk among the vineyards and the dams where they live in the Boland, they yearn for that walk with the Namib, our planet’s oldest desert, to their left, and the Atlantic Ocean to their right. And they’d do it again tomorrow, if only the opportunity was there…

    Lizette and her crazy socks in front of the Shawnee wreck on the Skeleton Coast.

  • And those Swarthond masks!
    Of course, there was also an adventure of a different kind. Dana Snyman and Erna Oosthuizen, owners of the Swarthond project to raise awareness of depression, donated masks to Ithemba as hand-outs – and didn’t we have fun with them? There were give-aways, and some offices were surprised to get a parcel of masks to hand out to colleagues. A BIG thank you to Dana and Erna and Swarthond – your masks were appreciated all over!


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