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Industries resume work in India as COVID-19 restrictions ease
1 June 2021, 10:49 AM

As new reporting of coronavirus cases started to subside in India and unlocking process began, industries also resumed their operations.

Industries in Gujarat were allowed to operate during the peak of second wave in most part of the state, but the operations were still shut because of disruption in supply chain due to lockdown in other parts of the country.

Industries were facing problems in getting raw material from other parts of the country where lockdown was in place and in sending their products to other states during the lockdown.

However, the situation is improving now. India reported on Tuesday (June 01) its lowest daily rise in new coronavirus infections since April 8 at 127 510 cases over the past 24 hours, while deaths rose by 2 795.

WHO launches a donation campaign to aid India’s COVID-19 response:

The South Asian nation’s tally of infections now stands at 28.2 million, while the death toll has reached 331 895, health ministry data showed.

The country says it will soon start working on new strategies to inoculate all its citizens against the virus. Policy-makers will study the effectiveness of a single shot as well as the impact of a cocktail of shots against the virus. – Additional information by SABC News

Suicide word written on board.
OPINION | Hard conversations on mental health first step to prevent teen suicide
1 June 2021, 8:00 AM

Mental health problems affect about 1 in 10 youth. In South Africa, 9.5% of teen deaths are due to suicide. A pre-pandemic study found that 24% of youth from Grade 8 through 11 struggle with feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and depression; 21% have tried to take their lives, and still much goes undetected and untreated. Also of concern is that up to 80% of mental disorders first occur before the age of 26.

Despite all of this, 70% of youth don’t get treatment for their conditions. Misunderstanding and stigma surrounding mental health is still rife. Access to mental health treatment and care is severely limited, non-existent in some areas.

Adolescence is a uniquely tough time. Faced with so many physical, emotional and social changes, being a teen is not easy. Now with added issues like exposure to bullying and violence, poverty, abuse, and disruptions to all facets of life due to the pandemic, young people are left more vulnerable to mental health problems.

There is no physical health without mental health. Good mental health allows children and young people to develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into well-rounded, healthy adults.

The Challenges Of SA Youth

Adolescence and youth brings about cognitive, social and emotional transitions. Young people make very different social decisions than adults and being socially connected or part of a group is very important. Being a teen in South Africa today comes with a unique set of challenges – inequality, dysfunctional family structures, poverty, crime, abuse to name a few.

Common psychiatric disorders in adolescents include anxiety, depression, conduct disorders, substance abuse, eating disorders. All are associated with an increased suicide risk, and are often a direct response to what is happening in their lives. We also know that vulnerable youth as well as those with lower social capital are most at risk.

Causes & Triggers Of Adolescent Mental Disorders

Mental disorders can result from complex interactions between a person’s genes and their environment. Adolescence itself is a period of significant physical, social and emotional change and teens may be more vulnerable.

Risk factors for the development of mental health problems in teens include social isolation, academic pressures, low self-esteem, bullying and exposure to violence, substance abuse.

Traumatic and highly stressful life events can have significant and lasting negative effects on mental health that continue as the adolescent matures. Loneliness and social isolation, bullying, abuse, loss and conflict can all result in depression.

Depression can be due to social isolation and loneliness, too little integration with society or a community – spending time on the internet and cellphone chat services reduce social involvement, increase social isolation and increased loneliness and depression. Much of what teens experience – bullying, social isolation, abuse – is a covert underground activity in a kids-only world. Teens are prone to act – and react – rather than reflect. They often focus on the present and feel overwhelmed by emotions.

Warnings Signs & What To Watch For

All too often adults are not aware of what is happening under their very noses. This often happens because we don’t know what warning signs to look out for.

Mental health disorders manifest in different ways and may present differently in adolescents versus adults.

Adolescents are more likely to experience irritability, apathy, sadness, low self-esteem, social withdrawal, insomnia and impaired concentration. Symptoms include low mood and anxiety, as well as thoughts and behaviours that impact negatively on the adolescent’s wellbeing and functioning. They may become withdrawn, stop participating in school activities, or struggle academically.

If untreated, secondary complications can arise, such as dropping out of school, entrenchment of unhealthy behaviours like cutting or extreme weight gain or loss, and these may persist into adulthood. Youth with depression often describe themselves as useless, or life as boring.

In older youth, the diagnosis of depression may be missed because it ‘looks’ different – they may present with oppositional or antisocial behaviour, such as substance use and have problems at school.

COVID-19 And Its Effects

Loneliness in young adults is associated with a number of negative health and mental health. Coping with the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been easy for any age. Feeling sad, scared, stressed or angry while coping with COVID-19 is normal. Being away from school, friends and relatives, having ‘normal everyday routines’ disrupted with no end in sight is a very real cause for anxiety.

Adjusting to new ways of learning and working is hard.

Continual research is clearly showing that the psychosocial effects of the pandemic have disproportionately affected the youth. Young people may be more affected by the negative psychosocial consequences of ‘lockdown’ and social distancing than adults. Young people may also find it more difficult to cope with the current crisis as their coping skills are not equivalent to those of an adult.

It is important to remember that children, teens and other youth are also affected by the impact of the pandemic on their caregivers – like unemployment, financial and emotional stress, illness, death, and fear of infection. It is important that adults receive adequate care and support.

In addition, for youth in domestically violent or dysfunctional homes, the pandemic, lockdowns, restrictions, curfews and school upheaval means many youth are forced to spend more time in abusive environments.

The pandemic tends to magnify pre-existing social inequalities in resources (like education, income, access to healthcare, access to support) resulting in an unequal impact on youth from different social strata.

What To Do

There is still a lot of stigma and fear around suicide. Many people still believe that if they talk about suicide, teens may get the idea to take their lives. Research shows that talking about suicide with a young person does not cause them to have thoughts of suicide or kill themselves. But not talking about it can lead to thoughts of suicide turning into actions.

It is reported that 75% of teenagers who attempt suicide give warnings of their suicidal ideation to people around them. Talking about suicide and depression creates an opportunity to discuss feelings and thoughts that might have otherwise remain hidden. Most teens who are thinking about suicide are honest and relieved when asked direct questions about their suicidal thoughts or feelings.

Informing, educating and empowering parents and teachers on how to have the hard conversations with teens about mental health, bullying, abuse and substances is the first step to preventing teen suicide.

Now more than ever, parents need to connect and engage with their children.

Possible warning signs:

  • Talking about suicide or death – could be writing or drawing about death and dying or posting pictures, quotes or messages on social media.
  • Writing or sending goodbye letters or messages or posting goodbye messages on social media.
  • Saying things like “everyone would be better off if I was dead” or “I wish I wasn’t here anymore” or “I don’t want to be here anymore”.
  • Giving away prized possessions.
  • Signs of depression, such as moodiness, hopelessness, withdrawal, drastic change in their appetite and sleep, and loss of interest in usual activities.
  • Increased alcohol and/or other drug use.
  • Behavioural changes and taking excessive risks.

Contact SADAG

“We do not all have the same possibilities to maintain our physical and emotional well-being. That´s why I didn´t hesitate to ask for help.” (Richard, 19)

If you think you or someone you know might be depressed or need help, please consult a professional or reach out to SADAG.

Suicide Helpline 0800 567 567

24-hour Cipla Mental Health Helpline 0800 456 789

24-hour Substance Abuse Helpline 0800 12 13 14

  •  Author of this piece is Janine Shamos, a Trauma Specialist, Transformation Coach, Writer and Owner Frankie London.
SA moves to adjusted lockdown level 2 from Monday
30 May 2021, 7:36 PM

President Cyril Ramaphosa says South Africa will move to adjusted lockdown level 2 from Monday.

The move follows an increase of 31% positive cases on the previous week and 66% increase on the week before that.

Ramaphosa says the increase in daily cases is following the same trajectory as it did at the start of the previous two waves. “We have seen in other countries the tragic consequences of allowing the virus to spread unchecked,” he says.

He says it’s a matter of time before the whole country has entered the third wave.

“Gatherings, funerals, camps, sporting activities and ‘after tears’ have become areas where the virus is spreading,” says the President.

A new curfew from 11pm to 4pm will also be in place.

“Bars, restaurants will have to close by 10pm. Gatherings limited to 100 indoors and 250 outdoors,” the President adds.

He says where the venue is too small to accommodate these numbers with appropriate social distancing, no more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be used.

The President is urging owners and managers of public buildings, centres, shops, restaurants, taxis and buses to ensure that people on their premises or in their vehicles wear masks, and that the appropriate social distancing measures are in place.

He is also calling on South Africans to avoid unnecessary travel.

“We must remember that the virus does not move from place to place by itself; it relies on the movement of people. The less we travel, the less the virus is spread,” he says.

The President’s full address is in the video below:

Ramaphosa says over the last two weeks, over 480 000 people have received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine as part of the country’s public vaccination campaign.

He says the scheduled delivery of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines has, however, been delayed due to regulatory issues related to lack of adherence to proper standards at a manufacturing plant in the United States.

The President says the African continent is pushing ahead with efforts to expand its vaccine manufacturing capacity with a view to be self-sufficient in vaccine production.

“We are continuing to urge all countries to support a waiver of the TRIPS agreement at the World Trade Organisation so that COVID-19 vaccines and treatments can be produced on a greater scale, at lower cost and at a faster pace,” he says.

He says this includes 31 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is a single-dose, and which will be manufactured here in South Africa. It includes 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which requires two doses to provide full protection.

Interesting facts to keep in mind

Sunday’s address came exactly two months after the President kept South Africa at lockdown level 1 since the 1st of March 2021.

Before that, South Africa had been at its second lockdown level 3.

Today, Sunday 30 May 2021, is South Africa is:

  • 14-and-a-half months under the National State of Disaster (since Sunday 15 March 2020);
  • 430th day under various levels of lockdown (since Friday 27 March 2020); and
  • 91st day under the second round of level 1 lockdown (since Monday 1 March 2021).
Mali coup leader to attend emergency West African summit
30 May 2021, 4:42 PM

West African leaders will discuss on Sunday how to respond to a coup in Mali, gathering in the Ghanaian capital Accra for a summit to be attended by Assimi Goita, who was named interim Malian president after leading the takeover last week.

The revolt has prompted sanctions warnings from foreign powers, which fear it will derail a promised transition back to democracy following another coup last August led by Goita, an army colonel.

He was appointed interim president on Friday, setting Mali on a collision course with the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which has insisted the transition, which is due to end with elections in February, should be led by civilians.

Goita has flown to Accra for the summit, according to his administration.

The talks are scheduled to start at 1400 GMT. ECOWAS closed borders with landlocked Mali and halted financial transactions in response to last year’s coup.

The sanctions led to a 30% slump in imports before they were lifted last October. The bloc and Western powers including France and the United States fear the political crisis could exacerbate instability in northern and central Mali, a home base for regional affiliates of al Qaeda and Islamic State.

AU calls on Malian parties to engage in dialogue:

UK PM Johnson marries in low-key, surprise ceremony
30 May 2021, 4:10 PM

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson married his fiancée Carrie Symonds at Westminster Cathedral on Saturday, capping a week of political drama with a wedding kept so under wraps that his office did not confirm it until the following day.

The event was not announced in advance and media reports on Saturday evening said guests were invited at the last minute to the Roman Catholic cathedral in central London, adding that even senior members of Johnson’s office were unaware of the wedding plans.

“The Prime Minister and Ms Symonds were married yesterday afternoon in a small ceremony at Westminster Cathedral,” Johnson’s office said on Sunday. “The couple will celebrate their wedding with family and friends next summer.”

Johnson, 56, and Symonds, 33, have been living together in Downing Street since Johnson became prime minister in 2019. They announced last year that they were engaged and their son, Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas Johnson, was born in April 2020.

The Conservative prime minister faced a barrage of criticism over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic after former chief adviser Dominic Cummings told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday that his failings had caused thousands of unnecessary deaths.

Johnson brushed aside the allegations, saying on Thursday that “some of the commentary” bore no relation to reality. He said the government had done its best to follow the data and guidance it had to contain the pandemic.

Smiles and flowers 

A wedding photo issued by the prime minister’s office showed the couple smiling in the garden of 10 Downing Street after the ceremony. Symonds wore a long white gown and a garland of white flowers in her hair while Johnson wore a dark suit, blue tie and a floral buttonhole.

The ceremony had to be low-key: weddings in England are currently limited to 30 people due to COVID-19 restrictions. Media reports said that the cathedral was suddenly locked down at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday and Symonds arrived 30 minutes later in a limo.

Earlier this month, the Sun had reported that wedding invitations had been sent to friends and family for July 2022.

Johnson, once dubbed “Bonking Boris” by Britain’s tabloid media, has a complicated private life. He was once fired from the Conservative Party’s policy team while in opposition for lying about an extra-marital affair.

He has been divorced twice and refuses to say how many children he has fathered. Johnson’s last marriage was to Marina Wheeler, a lawyer. They had four children together but announced in September 2018 that they had separated.

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