The Ithemba Foundation


Ithemba Foundation bursaries


Depressed women’s emotional experiences of the mother-child relationship: perspectives from a low-income South African community

(Clinical Psychology, Master’s thesis, graduation March 2014, by Marleen Lourens)

The study formed part of a larger longitudinal project concerned with low-income South African women’s subjective experiences of depression. It specifically focused on how depressed women experienced their relationships with their children. While numerous researchers have examined and identified the important negative effects of depression in mothers on children during the past decade, a very limited number of studies have been focused on the opposite direction of the depressed mother-child relationship. Very few studies have explored how relationships with their children may influence the development and subjective experience of depression and emotional distress in mothers, as well as, on the other hand, may protect against depression and emotional distress. This study attempted to address this gap in the literature. Although the depressed women in this study did report child factors which contributed to their depression, they - to the contrary - also emphasised that their children are an important protective factor against their experience of depression. The participants also highlighted that they have the ability to be protective, supportive and caring towards their children, despite their depressive symptoms. The majority of depressed women also described a “very good” mother-child relationship. As such, the participants in the present study showed us a brighter picture of the depressed mother-child relationship, pertaining to the...


2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

Longitudinal International Study on Student Health and Wellness

(ISSHW; Mental Health and Information Centre, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University)

The study was supported, not a person; Prof Soraya Seedat is the head of the Stellenbosch University’s Department of Psychiatry under whose leadership the study was executed.

Several findings of this study have already been presented at several conferences, one such being the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) congress in November 2016 in Cape Town. The conference took place for the first time in its history in Cape Town. Researchers working on the ISSHW presented findings. Prof Christine Lochner chaired the symposium and gave an overview of the rationale, aims and objectives of this International Study on Student Health and Wellness. She introduced the issue of, and the need for research on college/university student wellness and described this cross-continental four-year longitudinal study of student wellness. Also see “The WHO World Mental Health Surveys International College Student Project: Prevalence and Distribution of Mental Disorders” in Journal of Abnormal Psychology (April 2018), and

The Ithemba Foundation was acknowledged at the WPA Congress for its ongoing support of this study:



Relationship between childhood trauma, neuropsychological deficits, neural circuitry, and anxiety proneness in high-anxiety prone and low-anxiety prone adolescents.

(Psychiatry, PhD, graduation Dec 2017, L Martin)

Individual trait characteristics such as anxiety sensitivity (AS) and trait anxiety have been found to be elevated in those with anxiety disorders, and both AS and trait anxiety have predictive potential for a number of anxiety disorders. Individuals with early trauma histories, such as childhood maltreatment, are also at a greater risk of developing anxiety disorders and other psychopathology. As such, high-anxiety prone adolescents with childhood maltreatment histories are particularly vulnerable to the development of a wide range of psychiatric disorders and in light of this, further investigation is warranted. Several studies have shown that anxiety-prone (AP) individuals (i.e. those with high levels of AS and trait anxiety) demonstrate greater threat-related neurocognitive biases, and fare more poorly on neurocognitive tests (i.e. memory, attention, and executive function) relative to anxiety-normative (AN) individuals. Similarly, individuals with childhood maltreatment histories, relative to those without, have poorer neurocognitive performance. Neuroimaging studies have demonstrated these neurocognitive deficits to be associated with neural deficits, with AP individuals demonstrating greater activation in amygdala and insula regions relative to AN individuals. This study is a two-tier study in a representative, nonclinical sample of adolescents attending secondary schools in Cape Town.



Effectiveness of Prolonged Exposure for adolescents with PTSD, as administered by counselors: Comparative trial of supportive counselling

(PhD Psychiatry, graduated Dec 2017, J. Rossouw):

This study aimed to show that trauma-focused interventions can effectively be implemented in a South-African taskshifting, community based environment. The primary outcome measures are PTSD and depression severity measures. Previous research with adolescents indicate that effective treatment of PTSD lead to improvement in depression to subclinical levels. It is suggested that this subgroup of depression sufferers will improve when their PTSD is treated effectively.



Social cognition following pharmacological treatment in Social Anxiety Disorder: Clinical, cognitive and neuroimaging correlates.

(PhD Psychiatry, L Taljaard – ongoing/discontinued?)

Humans, as social creatures, have an innate desire to belong to a group and be accepted by our peers. There is an evolutionary need to be able understand and predict other people’s thoughts and behaviour by ascribing meaning to their mental states, their desires and intentions. The ability to interpret these social cues is important in our everyday capacity to live among people, get along and fit it. Our survival in the world relies on effective social functioning, and is important during decision making in social contexts, social judgments, emotion and face recognition, and socio-emotional competencies. Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a result of the fear that we will not be accepted by our peers, a fundamental, biological need to be liked. SAD in South Africa is a common psychiatric condition, with lifetime and 12-month prevalence rates of 2.8% and 1.9% 3, respectively, making it the second most common anxiety disorder. It also contributes to a significant burden that results in lower quality of life, higher rates of unemployment or time off work, greater risk of comorbid depression and alcohol/substance use and suicide.

Self-efficacy and anxiety in a group of isiXhosa-learners receiving second language education in the Western Cape

(MA Clinical Psychology, J Botha – degree awarded in 2019)

The effect of foreign language learning on self-esteem and anxiety has long been a topic of interest for language education researchers. Low self-esteem is correlated with higher levels of foreign language anxiety, in turn resulting in lower levels of language proficiency. Within the South African context, research has been conducted on how language mediates the psychosocial experiences of immigrant learners in South African schools, where the language of learning and teaching is different to their home language. Mahembe's (2016) study on foreign national children residing in and attending school in South Africa indicates that these children experienced increased social anxiety and a lower sense of self-esteem and self-efficacy, partly due to language barriers that effect academic achievement and the ability to fit into a peer group. De Witt (2011) postulates that it is not only immigrant children that experience the difficulties mentioned above; in South Africa, many children attending school in a language that is not their first experience the same anxiety as immigrant children. However, outside of the foreign language and immigrant learner context, there is a paucity of research on whether non-mother tongue education affects learners' self-efficacy and anxiety levels. This study aims to address this knowledge gap by investigating whether non-mother tongue education has an influence on the self-efficacy and anxiety levels of a group of South African learners by comparing their self-efficacy and anxiety levels with those of their peers receiving mother-tongue education.



Pilot study of an e-intervention for symptoms of depression among university Students in South Africa

(MA Clinical Psychology, F Gericke)

Depressive symptoms are common among university students, and are associated with significant problems including higher rates of dropout and suicidal behaviours. Despite viable psychotherapeutic and pharmacological options, the majority of depressed university students do not pursue treatment, and internet based e-interventions may provide a suitable alternative form of effective treatment for some students. Identifying individuals with a high likelihood of responding to internet-based treatment would enable clinicians to target this inexpensive treatment. To date no attempts have been made to pilot the use of e-interventions for depression among university students in South Africa. The specific aims of the study are:

  1. to determine the proportion of university students who will utilise the internet-based treatment (ICare);
  2. to determine if ICare effectively reduces depressive symptoms among students;
  3. to identify psychosocial and clinical characteristics that increase the likelihood of ICare utilisation; and
  4. to investigate university students’ experience and suggestions for how to make the intervention more culturally appropriate for use in SA.



Role impairment associated with common mental disorders among university students in South Africa.

Name of student: Frederik Mostert (SU), Master’s Clinical Psychology

The student has been diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease, plus complications, including Rickettsia and other viruses, which has interrupted his studies severely. However, despite these setbacks, he managed to write the first two chapters, has expanded on his description of methodology in his proposal for his Methodology chapter, and has to still add the data analysis that he has completed. All the tables and texts have been prepared, but need finalisation, plus his discussion and conclusion. He graduated in December 2021 with a mark of 72%.

Psychosocial challenges and coping strategies of family members caring for mentally ill patients in Ngaka Modiri Molema in the North West Province.

Name of Student: Tshiamo Jefrey Thipampenu (NWU), Master’s Psychology

Unfortunately, Mr Thipampenu informed Ithemba in July 2019 that he will discontinue his studies at NWU, and asked for the bursary to be transferred to another institution. This could of course not be done, and Ithemba successfully applied to the NWU to have the amount reimbursed. The amount of R25 000 will thus be added to the 2020 Ithemba Bursary.



R5 000 to Prof S Honikman, UCT, to enable her to attend the SASOG conference in Kwazulu-Natal (see Annual report 2020-21; Addendum C).

Three more bursaries of R25 000 each (Depts of Psychology, Psychiatry, SU) were awarded to

Ryan van der Poll (studies ongoing)

Mahlako Matlakale (studies interrupted/discontinued)

Nikki Boyd (graduated in 2021).

(see Annual Report 2020-21; Addenda D, E and F).



Tondani Mudau (Wits) – R30 000 (PhD: “Mobile based psychological interventions: An exploratory study to understand the mental health care needs of university students through developing and testing the usability of a mobile based intervention for improving mental health in students.”)

Marli McAllister (SU) – R20 000 (MSc: “The Tuberculosis-depression syndemic: Prevalence of depression and stigma, and impact on treatment adherence.”) Graduated December 2021 with a cum laude mark.

SU FMHS Student Mental Health Project – R25 000 (Project leader Prof J Bantjes)

(See Annual Report 2021-22; Addenda A-C)



In 2022, Ithemba sponsored the following bursaries:

Sophia-Loarraine Allie (SU, Psychiatry) – R40 000 (PhD: “Campus-based postvention at a South African university: A qualitative inquiry of staff and student experiences and insights”.

Mariam Salie (SU, Psychology) R25 00 (PhD: “Explanatory models of mental health conditions amongst Muslims in the Western Cape: An exploration of stakeholders’ perspectives”)

(See Annual Report 2022-23, Addenda A & B)


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