September 2018

World Suicide Prevention Day | 25 September 2018

World Suicide Prevention Day was marked on 10 September by concerns about growing rates of suicide and the lack of effective suicide prevention strategies not only in South Africa but in many countries around the globe.

In Cape Town, an event at the Silo District in the Waterfront focused on encouraging men to talk more in the belief that “talking saves lives”. According to the World Health Organization rates of suicide have been markedly increasing, especially among men. Symbolically, the speakers sat in barber’s chairs – an allusion to the space created in barber shops where, according to Garron Gsell of the Men’s Foundation,  men “feel free to talk, especially when times gets tough in the confidence that they will be heard “.

Speaking at the event were Daryl Brown, who survived a suicide attempt; Christine Wessels, who lost her partner to suicide and Jonathan Manuel, a social worker from Cape Mental Health..

Darryl Brown told how “overwhelmed by depression that had haunted him since childhood, he decided to end his life in 2013”. He threw himself in front of a train but survived and had to have both his legs amputated.

Christine Wessels, who lost her boyfriend to suicide 9 years ago, spoke about the lasting impact of suicide on those left behind: “I don’t go a day without missing him and wondering if things could have been different”.

Jonathan Manuel said that “men were less likely to speak about their mental health or illnesses due to stigma .

According to Garron Gsell : “Too many men try to deal with challenges on their own and suffer in silence. We’re hoping to show men that talking saves lives”. (Article by Lisa Isaacs: Cape Times, 11 September 2018).

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Good News On Alzheimer’s Disease | 25 September 2018

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia. The biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease is age with most cases being in people over the age of 65 years old and the risk increasing with age beyond that. With life expectancy increasing, the number of people living with Alzheimer’s Disease has grown considerably, and the fact that there has been no way of halting the condition has been of great concern. It leads not only to the loss of years for the patient but also to the loss of healthy years. For the families and carers, it can be a very demanding journey with impact also on their physical and mental wellbeing.

Recently Dr Stefan Weiss and his team of researchers from the University of the Witwatersrand announced that they have discovered an antibody that effectively targets the proteins that leads to amyloid-beta plaque formation which severely damages brain cells in Alzheimer’s Disease.

They administered the antibody nasally twice a week for 8 weeks to mice who then showed improvements in memory and cognitive function as a result of a reduction in the formation of amyloid-beta plaque formation. Their study was funded by the SA Medical Research Council and was initiated in 2015.

Dr Weiss and his team are now planning Phase 1 of clinical trials with 30-50 volunteers with Alzheimer’s Disease. The team is hopeful that the administration of this antibody to Alzheimer patients will result in significant improvement of memory and cognitive functioning. If so, they would aim to get regulatory approval for a nasal spray to slow down the progression of this disease that has hitherto been impossible to treat effectively.

*Reference from Cape Times, 4 September 2018 by Valencia Govindasamy. 

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