The Ithemba Foundation


Newsletter June 2024


The kids are not OK

There are more and more studies on the impact of social media on the wellbeing of not only teenagers, but also much younger pre-teens. Some studies clearly show how it directly results in online bullying, leading to not only self-harm, but even suicide. The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness by social psychologist Professor Jonathan Haidt is a New York Times bestseller on the topic. It is described as an “urgent and persuasive warning about the toll of ‘phone-based childhoods’”. At the start of the 2010s, the rates of teenage mental illness increased sharply, with US college students diagnosed with depression and anxiety more than doubling between 2010 and 2018. The suicide rate for younger adolescents increased by 167% for girls and 91% for boys. Read as much as you can on how to help our children live with social media – withholding it from them is not a solution. For more on the topic, read here, here, here and here, and on bullying here. The Childline hotline number is 116, from any network, and can be called 24 hours a day; the AKESO crisis line is 0861 435 787, also a 24-hour line, as well as SADAG’s helpline 0800 567 567.



And the rest of us really are not too well either …

A recent national survey showed that the South African government has to prioritise mental health issues, and at primary healthcare level, before they become severe, requiring costly specialist treatment. It is, in fact, more than a human rights issue. The survey showed that one in every four adults suffers “from a clinically significant depressive or anxiety disorder”. Depression alone costs South Africa more than R200 billion annually as a result of absenteeism as well as what is called presenteeism – when one is at work but not productive because of feeling unwell. Read more here, and the survey itself here.



THANK YOU for a great CS4D 2024!

Thank you to all who participated so enthusiastically to raise awareness of the mental health needs of all our healthcare workers. Go to or to our social media pages to get a glimpse of some of this year’s fun and support for such a worthy cause. The sock-selfie winners with the most likes on each of our medical campuses will also be announced there once they have all been contacted to ensure they each get their R1 000 cash prize!



NB: Save these dates!

If you would like to participate in any of the Cape Town Marathon’s various events on 19 and 20 October to highlight the importance of mental health, please contact for arrangements for your entry – Ithemba will pay your entry in full. And not to forget: Diarise our Hope Hike (5, 10 or 17 km) on Sunday, 27 October to end off Mental Health Awareness Month in style!



Time to break this silence and stigma

Ithemba is highlighting the importance of mental health for pregnant and postpartum women this year, as it is clear we need to break the silence and the stigma around mums struggling to cope. Below is the second contribution from the Perinatal Mental Health Project (PMHP) at the University of Cape Town.

Liesl Hermanus
Photo: Provided

The PMHP humanises and normalises perinatal mental health, helping mothers who are suffering in silence because of the fear of “coming out”. Liesl Hermanus, a Clinical Services Coordinator at the PMHP, provides a comprehensive mental health service at the Hanover Park Midwife Obstetric Unit in Cape Town. She and her team support pregnant women as well as those in the first year after pregnancy. “We find the first few months after the birth to be very hard for new mommies, having to adjust to a new baby who is completely dependent on them. This can be particularly hard when there is limited support from partners and family. We explore and activate available support systems, be it a family member, friend, or neighbour. When mothers feel cared for and supported, it has a trickle-down effect on the baby. Just as the baby needs to be cared for, so does the mother.”

Contact Lifeline on 0861 322 322, or find a psychologist or psychiatrist close to you on SADAG’s 24-hour helpline is 0800 456 789 or 0800 567 567, or SMS 31393.



And, yes, the benefits of laughter

And … to end off on a positive note: Did you know that children laugh about 400 times a day ... and grown-ups a mere 15 times? Yes, it is sometimes difficult to find something to laugh about, but … you can even force yourself to do it through laughter yoga. Laughter really is the best medicine – read it for yourself. And if you want to know more about laughter yoga, here are eight exercises to discover.




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