The Ithemba Foundation


Newsletter November 2023


Our precious children

In the run-up to the holidays – a season for children and youngsters to have stars in their eyes – we need to think about our youth and their needs, and maybe plan for 2024 in terms of how each of us can make that little difference in the lives of the next generation. There are a number of big concerns, such as malnourishment, exposure to violence and addiction to gaming.

Concerning malnourishment, a study has revealed that even the malnourishment of pregnant mothers already leads to the underdevelopment of the unborn child’s brain. This has a snowball effect. And, in the words of Ithemba Board member, psychiatrist Dr Cobus McCallaghan, this will lead to a generation with huge mental health issues. Find out more here.

With regards to gaming addiction: It is such a serious concern regarding mental health that we have already written about gaming addiction, but it cannot be emphasised enough. Children are exposed more and more to gaming and spend more time behind their computers than kicking a ball, reading, or just socialising. This will lead to serious consequences, not only on their social and mental development, but also their physical well-being. Read more here, as well as here and here. There should not only be a national call to action to support youth addicted to gaming, but preventative measures should be in place to prevent this crisis.
To end on a positive note: How about starting the new school year with fresh ideas, together with your local school, on how we can address these ever-increasing problems to help the next generation to reach their full potential?


Seven tips to beat a low mood and depression


Watch this short video on tips of how to beat that draining low mood and feeling of depression that you have to fight off every day. It is by psychologist Dr Julie Smith, publisher of Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before? 

Published in 2022 by PenguinRandomHouse, the book is a follow-up of her everyday tools for life’s ups and downs. Once you’ve watched her video clips, you can see why she has been described as a “social media superstar”. Her advice is really in that superstar league – although, once you have watched her video’s, you will realise they are the logical steps you need to take to overcome all those curveballs life throws at you. 


Millennials and mental health: “The struggle is real”

Millennials are struggling with mental health illnesses because of a myriad of issues. And the struggle is real – certainly not made up. Read more in this report by the Mental Health Foundation, and a millennial shares her own struggle here.


HOPEtober² – what a celebration!

We really and truly celebrated HOPEtober as our Mental Health Awareness Month. We started the month of awareness raising with our annual Hope Hike, on Sunday, 1 October, leading up to the Cape Town Marathon on 14 and 15 October. 

Our Hope Hike was celebrated in beautiful Cape spring weather on 1 October at Blaauwklippen, Stellenbosch – but also virtually, wherever participants found themselves. 

The Cape Town Marathon’s events over the weekend of 14 and 15 October really showed what legendary Capetonian “gees” is all about. With a “Go Ithemba!” from the sidewalks, Team Ithemba was encouraged to do their best. For the Peace10 Run or Walk on Saturday 14 October, Janine Rabe and Janine Immelman gave it their best (even with a best personal time!) and Ilse Cilliers, Aloïs Cilliers and Lizette Rabe walked/trotted/jogged the Peace10 to do their part. On Sunday, cousins Delana Eksteen and Hein Hörstmann ran the marathon, both with personal best times. Congratulations, and thank you to all participants, and a big thank you also to all our supporters on GivenGain. Join us for 2024’s HOPEtober!


Positive habits to make yourself stronger

By Ithemba Board member Dr Cobus McCallaghan

Resilience is an important skillset for the individual in order to adapt successfully when facing adversity. Here are few positive habits to develop as resilience factors:

When an individual functions in a demanding environment, the hypothalamic pituitary axis (HPA) gets activated and secretes stress hormones. This leads to the well-known “fight or flight” reaction. This reaction can cause numerous health problems if it remains present for long periods. The concept of “allostatic load” refers to the negative effect of such chronic exposure to high, or fluctuating, stress hormones (for more, see this article on stress and the individual). The definition of allostasis is regarded as the ability to achieve stability through change – for more, see this article). 

As a psychiatrist, I would like to emphasise the importance of being able to balance your bio/psycho/social situation. By maintaining positive habits – a healthy diet, exercise, regular medical evaluations, and practising psychological skills such as mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness – individuals can learn how to manage their “allostatic” load. Even very resilient individuals can develop, for example, health problems, such as weight gain, hypertension, or substance abuse if they do not pay attention to these aspects.

Throughout this (stressful) festive period, think consciously about resilience, and please stay safe.

Also see resilience factors, as documented by Ann Masten, in the previous three newsletters.


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