The Ithemba Foundation


Newsletter September 2019


Get walking and start talking – join us on our Hope Hike and Bike!

Our Hope Hike and Hope Bike events are taking place next month, so make sure you get your entries in as soon as possible. October is Mental Health Awareness Month in South Africa, so it’s the ideal time to take action. Join Ithemba Foundation as we get active outdoors and break the silence and stigma surrounding mental illnesses.

Whether you’re a runner, a walker or a mountain biker, there’s an event perfectly suited for you. So, join in the fun at two beautiful locations and help us to raise awareness of depression and related diseases such as anxiety as biological illnesses. It might also be your lucky day with exciting lucky draws!

If you live in the Cape…
Date: Sunday, 13 October 2019
Venue: Blaauwklippen, R44, Stellenbosch

If you live in the North…
Date: Sunday, 27 October 2019
Venue: Van Gaalen’s, Skeerpoort

The starting times for the various events on both days are as follows:

  • 25 km mountain bike ride – 07:45
  • 10 km hike/trail run – 08:00
  • 5 km hike/trail run – 08:30
  • 3 km hike/trail run – 08:40

How do I enter?

Enter online by clicking here. Limited entries are available, so please enter soon to avoid disappointment. Entry fees are as follows:

  • 25 km mountain bike fun ride – R120
  • 10 km hike/trail run – R100
  • 5 km hike/trail run – R75
  • 3 km hike/trail run – R50
  • Students – R30
  • Children under 12 – R30

Registration for all events opens at 06:30 on the mornings concerned.

Want to do something on a global scale?

In support of World Suicide Prevention Day, you are invited to log your cycling distance on any route and thereby contribute to the campaign to collectively cycle around the globe. To log your distance and find out more about this initiative, click here.


It’s October, and HOPE springs eternal!

October is spring time – the beginning of everything new – and for the first time, South Africa also now has October as official Mental Health Awareness Month, as officially declared last year. And thus we at the Ithemba Foundation can indeed say “Hope springs eternal”. With ithemba meaning hope in isiXhosa, this maybe also heralds a new approach to public mental health care by the Government. A lot still has to be done to normalise and humanise mental health, but let’s HOPE this is the first signs of a new approach.

World Mental Health Awareness Day on 10 October, supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), has been in existence for almost three decades. The theme for 2019 is of critical importance: suicide prevention. The objective is not only educating the public about mental health, but also to reduce stigma and discrimination that people with mental illness are subjected to – and which too often lead to someone not realising or recognising the symptoms of a depression that could develop to a fatal stage. In a US study it was found that between 2009 and 2017 rates of depression among children aged between 14 and 17 increased by more than 60%. In fact, among young people rates of suicidal thoughts, plans, as well as attempts, all increased significantly. In some cases it more than doubled between 2008 and 2017.

But back to SA’s very first official Mental Health Awareness Month. In its declaration in the Government Gazette in December last year it was stated that mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse and job stress are common, affecting from individuals to the broader community. They also have a direct impact on workplaces through absenteeism, reduced productivity, and increased costs. And: Very few South Africans seek treatment, while mental disorders are treatable, as any other.

An estimated 400 million people worldwide suffer from mental disorders. In May this year, during the US’s Mental Health Awareness Month, mental health activist and former First Lady Rosalyn Carter expressed the wish that “we are at the beginning of a global mental health revolution”. Access to mental health services has never been more critical, she said. In the US mental disorders among children and adolescents have reached a crisis level, with the country experiencing its highest suicide rate in 50 years. A new study in the United Kingdom also highlighted the fact that young people are the least happy in a decade.

It’s clear: We need to end the silence and put pressure on governments and the private sector to prioritise mental health care. While mental health disorders are increasing globally, with depression the leading cause of disability, according to the WHO one in four of us will experience a mental illness at some point in our lives, with many more indirectly affected by disorders experienced by someone we love.

Speaking up about mental health can be difficult because it is so much easier to ignore the symptoms. But: They will not go away. Rather, we, as society, will become more disabled, as there simply cannot be health without mental health. The time has come to have our voices heard – so join Ithemba in our annual Hope Hike and Hope Bike, respectively on 13 and 27 October in the Cape and the North.



Ithemba Foundation and CT Marathon 2019


Four of the participants in the Cape Town Marathon's Peace10 run/walk in support of the Ithemba Foundation: From left to right, Ithemba directors Jan and Petro Bosman, with Karin McCallaghan and Lizette Opperman. The event was held in ideal conditions and all in all Ithemba raised R21 912.00 towards our public benefit goals.
Three participants in the Cape Town Marathon on behalf of the Ithemba Foundation. Rensche van Rensburg and Herta de Villiers did the Peace10, and Hein Hörstmann ran the marathon - the latter in an excellent time and ending in the 90th percentile, which means 90% of the field of 13 000-plus marathon athletes finished after him.
Herta de Villiers (78) crossing the finishing line for the Peace10 during the Cape Town Marathon in support of the work of the Ithemba Foundation.


SOS! Students in need of mental health support

An important study* on the status of mental health among university students is regarded as “setting a research agenda” and “the first national paper to focus on a wide range of mental disorders among students”. The study supports a growing body of evidence that the mental wellbeing of young adults as they enter tertiary education should be prioritised.

According to Dr. Jason Bantjes from Stellenbosch University’s Department of Psychology, the data highlighted “the marked prevalence of mental health problems among South African students”. The study was part of a global, longitudinal study, resulting in more awareness of the need “for effective prevention, early detection, and novel treatment approaches” for common mental disorders (CMDs) among students.

One of the co-authors, Janine Roos, director of the Mental Health Information Centre (part of the MRC Unit on Risk and Resilience in Mental Disorders of the Universities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch), emphasises the fact that the median age of onset of CMDs is 15 years, which means “we will have to think about collaborating or sharing our data with secondary institutions to be able to come up with solutions”.

The data also indicate that “traditional one-on-one models of intervention” are unlikely to help meet the high demand for mental health care on campuses. Being an already resource-restrained environment, Ms Roos says there is a need for thinking about other methods to assist students, with the ultimate goal of having students finishing their studies on time “and not have to prematurely end their studies because they are struggling with CMDs”.  

Taking into account that students are our next generation of leaders, it “makes sense to adopt a public mental health approach to promoting student wellness in South Africa”, says Dr. Bantjes. These can include

  • a national student mental health surveillance and monitoring system to collect data to plan campus-based services, mount interventions, and set priorities;
  • developing and testing “resilience interventions” as part of the formal curriculum;
  • implementing cost-effective early intervention programmes for at-risk students;
  • strengthening campus-based mental health services and crises services;
  • removing barriers to access effective treatment, including issues such as affordability of treatment and stigma, and, lastly,
  • identifying and addressing “systemic factors and practices within universities which compromise the mental health of our students”, such as gender-based violence, food and housing insecurity, sexism and homophobia.  

Achieving these goals “will require a nationally co-ordinated effort and the co-operation of universities across the country”, says Dr. Bantjes. While early detection and screening systems are in place at European and US universities, South African campuses cannot identify students in need of treatment from the moment they enrol. Besides: It won’t help “if we identify them and then don’t have acceptable and effective treatment to offer them”. This is an area where much more work is needed, and this, adds Dr. Bantjes, can only be implemented “if there is political will and funding”.

* “Prevalence and sociodemographic correlates of common mental disorders among first-year university students in post-apartheid South Africa: implications for a public mental health approach to student wellness”, by J. Bantjes et al., BMC Public Health, 2019 (Vol 19). The Ithemba Foundation co-funded the local study. The global study can be found at



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