The art of acceptance and the absence of the grasping mind

Written by Courtney Fowles

Intern Counselling Psychologist, District Six Campus

‘It is one of the great lies propagated by our culture that getting more and more physical and material prosperity will lead to greater and greater happiness. This is simply not true. Genuine happiness lies in not wanting. Endless wanting is such a burden to the mind. If we really wish to be happy and create happiness for those around us, our task is to clean, aerate and order our minds’ – Tenzin Palmo

“If I just lost that weight I’d feel better about myself”
“If I just gained that weight I’d feel better about myself”
“Once I get that qualification, that degree, that job I’ll be able to find peace”
“Once I am married I will feel safe and happy”
“If I just manage to get that outfit, car, or house I’ll be happy”
“If only I had not done that one thing in the past I would feel happy right now”
“If that didn’t happen to me I would be able to experience joy”
“If I got more ‘likes’ or followers things would be better”

The list goes on and the search for happiness, peace, fulfilment and joy continues. Sound familiar?
Sometimes, actually most of the time we get caught in memories of the past and musings about the future – our brains default button if you will. And when we spend time occupied in these two spaces, which do not exist in this very moment, we deny ourselves the opportunity to embrace and rest in the joy or stillness of what is right now.

Maybe how we are ‘searching’ is part of the problem. Rushing, spending, and accumulating, more and more. We seem to have buried our joy under piles of stuff that bought us some temporary pleasure or fulfilment at the time. But never seems to tick the box of eternal joy, happiness, and peace. But why, we spent so much money on that outfit, the new trend ‘must have’, appliance, watch, gadget, car, or other material thing we deemed essential to our fulfilment. And in doing this we relegate happiness to the future and we prevent ourselves from feeling content right now at this very moment! It’s the same with all the other societal expectations based on how you should look, who you should be with, what you should believe, how qualified you should be or how big your salary is. All these things are external, they rely on doing or gaining things on a superficial level of reality. They are sold to use through society’s neoliberal and capitalistic pursuits under the guise that we can purchase happiness with the latest trend or attain it by fulfilling a socially constructed expectation of what it is to be normal and happy.

A lot of us seem to think that maybe we are not good enough and by doing or attaining certain things we will finally be good enough, worthy, fulfilled, acknowledged, loved and so on. And so we attach ourselves to people, situations, beliefs, or possessions in an effort to feel good enough. You get the gist, we are constantly reaching and grasping at dreams, things, and expectations that we forget to manifest instead of dream, to appreciate the things we have and not pen happiness on the next purchase, to embrace where we are, who we are, and how we look right now in our lives rather than comparing ourselves to friends or celebrities on social media. We need to loosen the hold our expectations and desires have on us and free ourselves from this illusion.

The wisdom of Tibetan psychology tells us that the essence of Buddhism involves the absence of grasping and desire which is known as Vajrayana. So ask yourself; are you happy, content, and joyful and at peace right now?
If yes, great! I could learn a thing or two from you!
If no, that’s okay maybe the trick is not looking at attaining more externally but emptying it out a bit, clearing the layers of dirt we bought and borrowed to gratify our ego’s and looking inwards. That’s a bit scary for some of us, it can make us feel vulnerable which society often tells us is ‘weakness’. This is why we penned our joy to things we got pleasure from almost instantly in the outside world or we chose ignorance as the path of least resistance. Because these paths did not involve sifting through layers of fears, uncertainties, and doubts or feeling vulnerable. But what if the payoff of turning our search for happiness, joy, and peace inwards resulted in eternal happiness, joy, and peace. For some this is known as enlightenment. And we can start our journey towards that today, by;

Learning to let go
Let’s take a moment to look at our attachment and grasping tendencies:
Step 1: Identify my grasping
Find a quiet place to sit comfortably with a pen and paper handy. Start reviewing all the possessions and attachments you have accumulated in your life. Now see where an intense sense of ownership or possession is focused. These are tangible things but it could also be an attachment to ideas, knowledge, people, and symbols. Maybe you’re attached to attachment! Just write down what comes to mind without analysing it, put it aside and don’t read through it. You can keep doing this for a couple of days to see what comes up and to identify any pattern in your grasping tendencies. Ask yourself; Do I see the consequences of my grasping? Can I see the difficulties, suffering or conflict it causes?

Step 2: Imagine losing or giving away
Again find a relaxing spot with pen and paper and mentally go through the list of attachments you created. Now imagine losing the important ones, as if they were taken away or you had to give them away. E.g. If it’s your knowledge you lose it, your good looks they are gone. You had to catch a plane suddenly and leave it all behind, see what happens in your mind.

Step 3: Now give it away
Okay go on and give away one of the possessions you are attached to. It’s gone, see how this affects you now by noticing what happens in your mind and body. Now give away another thing, actually give it away. Keep giving until it becomes easier. Can you feeling anything liberating in this generosity?
I am not telling you to get rid of all your things; rather it is the psychological detachment from them that can be of benefit. To enjoy fully but have insight into your relationship with attachment and grasping is what we are trying to do. To see where our freedom lies. Here are some ways we can learn more about our attachments and how we can create some healthy distance from those that do not serve us;

Ways to let go of the grasping mind:
Practice acceptance
Openly and radically accepting ourselves as we are can be transformational. So notice how you talk to yourself, the attitude you have towards yourself, the judgements and criticisms you easily dish out to yourself on a daily basis. We expect ourselves to perfect which we are not and cannot expect to be. If we allow our minds to reveal themselves and to accept this without judgement and criticism we can find a sense of peace and understanding, without slipping into bad habits of negative self-talk that push away peace and understanding. So why not try making friends with your mind?

Body and breath
We seem to have become quite disconnected from our bodies. So just take a moment to check how your body is feeling at the moment, are you holding in your breath or is there some tension somewhere? Or can you notice any free and empty spaces in the body? Really focus on the sensations your body is experiencing. Once you’ve done this little body scan and checked in with yourself. Notice how you are feeling, the body sometimes tells us things we have become accustomed to silencing. Are you tired? Are you anxious? Are you content?


“Some of us are war with ourselves without realising it: we repress feelings, deny the existence of unwelcome mind states and refuse to accept ourselves as we are. As a result we experience inner conflict, anxiety, depressive states and fear; we are unhappy in life and fearful of death” – Rob Nairn

We can make friends with our minds by learning to be a bit gentler with ourselves and letting go of thoughts and habits that do not serve us by allowing the mind to be still. Sounds a lot easier than it really is. Getting into it can be a slow and sometimes boring or very frustrating process because the mind is prone to constantly thinking, analysing and concentrating. Much like spotting an animal in the bush. If it is constantly moving you may struggle to see what it clearly is. But if it remains somewhat still you can observe it fully and with clarity. If we are able to get the mind to be fairly still we can experience clarity, wisdom, and compassion without having to look in all sorts of strange places.

Create awareness and focus
Develop bare-attention. This is the ability to notice the comings and goings of your mind without attaching thoughts and behaviours to it. As a movie camera would pan a scene without comment, evaluation, judgement, or interventions so can you with your mind – through observation. This also means don’t grasp or attach to mindfulness as it defeats the process.

Attitude of gratitude
Lastly, try cultivate this as a daily routine by just checking in with yourself, friend or loved one and listing just three things that you are grateful for on this day at this moment.
May you loosen the grip of the grasping mind and find peace, happiness, and joy in the art of acceptance.


Reference: Nairn, R. (2002). Living dreaming dying. Kairon Press: Kalk Bay.

In my feelings – but still in control.

Written by Bradley Knight

MA Clinical Psychology and Community Counselling (Stell.)

Often people ‘regulate’ their feelings by pushing it away or running from it, only to have that unpleasant feeling (sadness, anger, hurt) follow them and overwhelm them at the worst of times. A wise person once said, ‘Feelings just want to be felt…then they leave”. So how do YOU do feelings? Do you avoid them? Shut them out? Fight them off? How about trying it differently from now on? Interested? Then keep on reading.

A couple of things before we get going; feelings are neither good nor bad. Depending on how you respond to them or interpret them, they may be experienced as negative or positive, but in essence, there is no such thing as a good feeling or bad feeling. They’re just feelings. And they are transient. They are visitors. They are messengers, motivating you to action.

With that in mind, the first thing you want to do is identify the feeling you are sitting with. For the purpose of this exercise, we will focus on the ‘not-so-nice’ feelings. What feeling is visiting you? Is it frustration? Annoyance? Disappointment? Fear? Sadness? Very often, the feeling on the surface is like the tip of an iceberg, meaning that there are more feelings underlying the ‘visible’ feeling. We can have feelings about feelings; e.g. feeling angry about being sad. The most important task here is to identify and describe what you are feeling in this moment.

Once you have identified the feeling, the next step is to acknowledge the feeling. Don’t get entangled with it. Don’t fight it off or run from it. Just notice it and recognize its presence. Allow yourself to be conscious of the feeling that is visiting and rather than say “I am sad”, try something like “I’m noticing that I’m having a feeling of sadness” – that puts some healthy distance between you and the unpleasant feeling, rather than identifying yourself with it. In other words, learn to become a detached observer of your own feeling state. Don’t judge it. Just notice it without engaging it, in the same way you would notice a fellow passenger on a bus or someone in the que in front of you.

Next, you want to validate the presence of that feeling. In other words, you accept that the feeling is there for a valid reason. Even when you can’t identify what triggered the feeling, validating your own emotional state is a powerful step. You are telling yourself that you are feeling this way for good reason – you are not being ‘silly’ or ‘weak’. Very often this practice of just being able to acknowledge and validate your own emotional state results in the intensity of the feeling subsiding.

But what if it doesn’t subside? Then the next step is to self-soothe until it does. Find a soothing activity that is associated with each of your five senses. What would soothe you by just looking at it? A picture of a love one? What is it about smell that is soothing for you? Touch? Taste? Hearing your favourite song? I’ve got news for you; your brain has been hard-wired to self-soothe ever since you were a baby. When you cried, your emotional state was (hopefully regularly) acknowledged (caregiver responds to the cries for attention); then validated (caregiver thinks to themselves ‘there’s must be good reason why baby is crying’ – hungry? unwell? needs a nappy change) and then if necessary soothed you through your five senses – you seeing your caregiver, smelling their scent, tasting the milk, hearing their voice, feeling their embrace. Do you see how you were hard-wired for soothing using your senses? Now that you are older, the good news is you can learn to self-soothe using your five senses when the intensity of the emotion remains high – even if you didn’t have ideal experiences with your caregiver.

Well-meaning people may tell you to just ‘snap out of it’, but we all know that it doesn’t work that way in reality. You cannot ‘snap out’ of feelings, just like you cannot ‘snap out’ of a cold or flu. It requires learning to acknowledge and self-validate your own emotional states and if necessary, self soothe using your five senses as a way to help you tolerate the distress until it passes. Ultimately the goal is Emotion Regulation –where you manage your feeling states in a way that keeps you in control. For more help with this process and learning more about Mindfulness, Emotion Regulation and Distress Tolerance Techniques, feel free to make an appointment at Student Counselling.

Is it acceptable to seek out both traditional healing and psychotherapy?

Written by Elisabet Smit, HOD – Student Counselling, Counselling Psychologist.

While Western medicine and psychotherapy is arguably the most prominent forms of health treatment today, it is not accessible to, or the first choice for, everyone. In fact, it is estimated that 72% (26,6 million) of the South African population rely on traditional healing medicine practices for their primary and mental healthcare needs.

According to traditional African belief, human beings are made up of various aspects – physical, spiritual, moral, and social. When these parts function together harmoniously, a person will be in good health. On the other hand, if any of these aspects is out of balance, a person will become physically, mentally, or even spiritually ill. Thus illness is not viewed as just a physical disorder, but could also be a spiritual, moral or social disorder. Similarly, the treatment of an ill person involves not only aiding his or her physical wellbeing, but may also involve the spiritual, moral, or social components of their wellbeing.

The need to seek traditional healing is therefore embedded in a cultural paradigm of cure-seeking, based on the holistic nature of traditional approaches, which seek to restore harmony and balance within the patient/client (by engaging mind-body-soul) and between patient/client and his/her environment (family and/or community).

When it comes to Western medical treatment and modern pharmaceutics, the focus is mainly on the body, by removing the physical symptoms. When it comes to psychotherapy, the focus is mainly on the mind, where a diagnosis of the client’s problem, according to the DSM-5, informs the therapeutic interventions used in client’s treatment program.

Traditional healing practices, when compared to Western healthcare systems, are therefore seen to be worlds apart with different models of illness and health, operating within a different world view. These differences however are being reduced with the adoption of many traditional and alternative healing practices within Western health care, e.g. meditation, yoga, acupuncture and homeopathy.

An increasing number of people are opting for traditional, or alternative healing approaches alongside counselling and psychotherapy, where such dual interventions address the needs of the body, as well as the mind and spirit and provide clients with the holistic care they seek. Through the traditional healing process, clients can affirm their own cultural or ethnic reality, which is denied in conventional psychotherapy and society in general. For these clients, even if counselling and psychotherapy affirms their worldview and their sense of being, it nevertheless places the body (and spirituality) at the margins of clients’ existential questions. Thus, traditional healers and traditional healing could be a critical space within which reconnections are made towards wholeness and wellness of clients. It therefore seems critical for Western trained psychotherapists to understand traditional and alternative healing’s place in modernity and to accommodate and/or integrate it in their clinical / therapeutic work with clients.

Thus, the progressive view is to see how the holistic style of treatment may also be a complementary method to the Western version of medicine and psychotherapy. It is important that psychotherapists determine whether the client’s problem can be resolved in a way that is compatible with their repertoire of psychological interventions, or whether they need to coordinate their services with, or refer their clients to a traditional healer.

Professional guidelines and codes of ethics directing counselling and psychotherapy have begun to recognize the immense diversity among clients, thus striving to address ethical concerns which emerge in this context, but do not always provide sufficient guidelines when it comes to supporting     the use of traditional healing practices, or clients engaged in dual interventions.

The South African government intends to bring traditional healing medicine into the modern era. In order to accomplish this, the traditional healing sector needs to be formalized and traditional medicine healers have to be regulated by the National Department of Health, according to World Health Organization guidelines.  The current proposal for regulation, includes certification of all new healers; requiring healers to submit details related to their sessions with patients/clients; setting a minimum age for healers for 18 and paying an annual registration fee.

To conclude:  It is completely acceptable for clients to seek out both traditional or alternative healing alongside counselling and psychotherapy where such dual interventions address the needs of the body, as well as the mind and spirit and provide them with the holistic care they seek. It is however recommended that a client informs and discuss his/her intention to also seek out traditional or alternative healing medicine, with his/her therapist (e.g. a psychologist or social worker at  Student Counselling) and to ensure that the traditional, or alternative healing practitioner is registered with the relevant professional board.



Can traditional medicine and psychology live side by side? Article published by the South African College of Applied Psychology, February 2018 on

Traditional healing, the body and mind in psychotherapy. Article written by Roy Moodley, Patsy Sutherland and Olga Oulanova from the University of Toronto, Canada and published in 2008 in the Counselling Psychology Quarterly Vol. 21, No. 2, 153-165.



Written by Janine Van Sitters-Mintoor

The UN loves to make an awareness day for pretty much everything, and it’s certainly got its corner of the market by picking the vaguest themes. Therefore, the wonderfully wide-reaching “International Day of Friendship” exists, and with an interesting and understandable concept: by making friends with more people, there’s less chance of injustice, war, poverty and much more.

“Through friendship — by accumulating bonds of camaraderie and developing strong ties of trust — we can contribute to the fundamental shifts that are urgently needed to achieve lasting stability,” explains the UN. So why not make your community, your campus residence or just your living room that little more stable by getting together with your mates and celebrating each other’s company?

Significance of Friends

True friendship is about putting your feet up and knowing that someone is there to bail you out when the world might walk out on you. Besides, as a support system in today’s hectic world, friends are sources for social, intellectual and creative stimulations. Tell a friend today how much they mean to you and show them some appreciation.

# friendshipgoals

A message to cancer survivors

Written by Thandi Nkibi, Student Counselling Department

It is by now common knowledge that cancer know no boundaries and cuts across all ages, races and religions. According to the World Health Organisation cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, and was responsible for 8.8 million deaths in 2015. Globally, nearly 1 in 6 deaths is due to cancer.

Sunday the 3rd June 2018 marks the day the international world for cancer survivors. Our country’s CANSA(Cancer Association of South Africa) also sees this day as an opportunity to acknowledge all those that are living with, living through and living beyond cancer. Hence we find it proper to acknowledge the courage and determination that cancer survivors have shown in fighting the scourge.  It is an attempt to make survivors and those affected to be aware that you are not alone in your journey to fight cancer.

If you are one of those who are in this fight, student counselling department encourages you to visit the CANSA association in Mowbray, where you might get an opportunity to learn more about your type of cancer, or join a support group of likeminded people. Being part of a support group helps instil a sense of hope and allay fears one might have in living with cancer.

Above all, cancer survivors should always remember that there are many challenges in life that you have overcome. This too might pass. Cancer should not define who you are as a person.

Information adapted from WHO and CANSA association websites:

  • Approximately 70% of deaths from cancer occur in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Around one third of deaths from cancer are due to the 5 leading behavioural and dietary risks: high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, and alcohol use.
  • Tobacco use is the most important risk factor for cancer and is responsible for approximately 22% of cancer deaths (2).
  • Cancer causing infections, such as hepatitis and human papilloma virus (HPV), are responsible for up to 25% of cancer cases in low- and middle-income countries (3).
  • Late-stage presentation and inaccessible diagnosis and treatment are common. In 2017, only 26% of low-income countries reported having pathology services generally available in the public sector. More than 90% of high-income countries reported treatment services are available compared to less than 30% of low-income countries.
  • The economic impact of cancer is significant and is increasing. The total annual economic cost of cancer in 2010 was estimated at approximately US$ 1.16 trillion (4).
  • Only 1 in 5 low- and middle-income countries have the necessary data to drive cancer policies

Cancer is a generic term for a large group of diseases that can affect any part of the body. Other terms used are malignant tumours and neoplasms. One defining feature of cancer is the rapid creation of abnormal cells that grow beyond their usual boundaries, and which can then invade adjoining parts of the body and spread to other organs, the latter process is referred to as metastasizing. Metastases are a major cause of death from cancer.

The problem

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 8.8 million deaths in 2015. The most common causes of cancer death are cancers of:

  • Lung (1.69 million deaths)
  • Liver (788 000 deaths)
  • Colorectal (774 000 deaths)
  • Stomach (754 000 deaths)
  • Breast (571 000 deaths)

What causes cancer?

Cancer arises from the transformation of normal cells into tumour cells in a multistage process that generally progresses from a pre-cancerous lesion to a malignant tumour. These changes are the result of the interaction between a person’s genetic factors and 3 categories of external agents, including:

  • physical carcinogens, such as ultraviolet and ionizing radiation;
  • chemical carcinogens, such as asbestos, components of tobacco smoke, aflatoxin (a food contaminant), and arsenic (a drinking water contaminant); and
  • biological carcinogens, such as infections from certain viruses, bacteria, or parasites.

WHO, through its cancer research agency, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), maintains a classification of cancer-causing agents.

Ageing is another fundamental factor for the development of cancer. The incidence of cancer rises dramatically with age, most likely due to a build-up of risks for specific cancers that increase with age. The overall risk accumulation is combined with the tendency for cellular repair mechanisms to be less effective as a person grows older.

Risk factors for cancers

Tobacco use, alcohol use, unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity are major cancer risk factors worldwide and are also the 4 shared risk factors for other noncommunicable diseases.

Some chronic infections are risk factors for cancer and have major relevance in low- and middle-income countries. Approximately 15% of cancers diagnosed in 2012 were attributed to carcinogenic infections, including Helicobacter pylori, Human papillomavirus (HPV), Hepatitis B virus, Hepatitis C virus, and Epstein-Barr virus3.

Hepatitis B and C virus and some types of HPV increase the risk for liver and cervical cancer, respectively. Infection with HIV substantially increases the risk of cancers such as cervical cancer.

Reducing the cancer burden

Between 30–50% of cancers can currently be prevented by avoiding risk factors and implementing existing evidence-based prevention strategies. The cancer burden can also be reduced through early detection of cancer and management of patients who develop cancer. Many cancers have a high chance of cure if diagnosed early and treated adequately.

Modify and avoid risk factors

Modifying or avoiding key risk factors can significantly reduce the burden of cancer. These risk factors include:

  • tobacco use including cigarettes and smokeless tobacco
  • being overweight or obese
  • unhealthy diet with low fruit and vegetable intake
  • lack of physical activity
  • alcohol use
  • sexually transmitted HPV-infection
  • infection by hepatitis or other carcinogenic infections
  • ionizing and ultraviolet radiation
  • urban air pollution
  • indoor smoke from household use of solid fuels.

Tobacco use is the single most important risk factor for cancer and is responsible for approximately 22% of cancer-related deaths globally.

Pursue prevention strategies

To prevent cancer, people may:

  • increase avoidance of the risk factors listed above;
  • vaccinate against HPV and hepatitis B virus;
  • control occupational hazards;
  • reduce exposure to ultraviolet radiation;
  • reduce exposure to ionizing radiation (occupational or medical diagnostic imaging).

Vaccination against these HPV and hepatitis B viruses could prevent 1 million cancer cases each year3.

Early detection

Cancer mortality can be reduced if cases are detected and treated early. There are 2 components of early detection:

Early diagnosis

When identified early, cancer is more likely to respond to effective treatment and can result in a greater probability of surviving, less morbidity, and less expensive treatment. Significant improvements can be made in the lives of cancer patients by detecting cancer early and avoiding delays in care.

Early diagnosis consists of 3 steps that must be integrated and provided in a timely manner:

  • awareness and accessing care
  • clinical evaluation, diagnosis and staging
  • access to treatment.

Early diagnosis is relevant in all settings and the majority of cancers. In absence of early diagnosis, patients are diagnosed at late stages when curative treatment may no longer be an option. Programmes can be designed to reduce delays in, and barriers to, care, allowing patients to access treatment in a timely manner.


Screening aims to identify individuals with abnormalities suggestive of a specific cancer or pre-cancer who have not developed any symptoms and refer them promptly for diagnosis and treatment.

Screening programmes can be effective for select cancer types when appropriate tests are used, implemented effectively, linked to other steps in the screening process and when quality is assured. In general, a screening programme is a far more complex public health intervention compared to early diagnosis.

Examples of screening methods are:

  • visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA) for cervical cancer in low-income settings;
  • HPV testing for cervical cancer;
  • PAP cytology test for cervical cancer in middle- and high-income settings; and
  • mammography screening for breast cancer in settings with strong or relatively strong health systems.


A correct cancer diagnosis is essential for adequate and effective treatment because every cancer type requires a specific treatment regimen that encompasses one or more modalities such as surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. Determining the goals of treatment and palliative care is an important first step, and health services should be integrated and people-centred. The primary goal is generally to cure cancer or to considerably prolong life. Improving the patient’s quality of life is also an important goal. This can be achieved by supportive or palliative care and psychosocial support.

Potential for cure among early detectable cancers

Some of the most common cancer types, such as breast cancer, cervical cancer, oral cancer, and colorectal cancer have high cure rates when detected early and treated according to best practices.

Potential for cure of some other cancers

Some cancer types, even when cancerous cells have traveled to other areas of the body, such as testicular seminoma and leukaemias and lymphomas in children, can have high cure rates if appropriate treatment is provided.

Palliative care

Palliative care is treatment to relieve, rather than cure, symptoms caused by cancer and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. Palliative care can help people live more comfortably. It is an urgent humanitarian need for people worldwide with cancer and other chronic fatal diseases and particularly needed in places with a high proportion of patients in advanced stages of cancer where there is little chance of cure.

Relief from physical, psychosocial, and spiritual problems can be achieved in over 90% of advanced cancer patients through palliative care.

Palliative care strategies

Effective public health strategies, comprising of community- and home-based care are essential to provide pain relief and palliative care for patients and their families in low-resource settings.

Improved access to oral morphine is mandatory for the treatment of moderate to severe cancer pain, suffered by over 80% of cancer patients in terminal phase.

WHO response

In 2017, the World Health Assembly passed the resolution Cancer Prevention and Control through an Integrated Approach (WHA70.12) urges governments and WHO to accelerate action to achieve the targets specified in the Global Action Plan and 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development to reduce premature mortality from cancer.

  • WHA70.12: Cancer prevention and control in the context of an integrated approach
  • Global action plan for the prevention and control of NCDs 2013-2020

WHO and IARC collaborate with other UN organizations within the UN Interagency Task Force on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases and partners to:

  • increase political commitment for cancer prevention and control;
  • coordinate and conduct research on the causes of human cancer and the mechanisms of carcinogenesis;
  • monitor the cancer burden (as part of the work of the Global Initiative on Cancer Registries);
  • identify “best buys” and other cost-effective, priority strategies for cancer prevention and control;
  • develop standards and tools to guide the planning and implementation of interventions for prevention, early diagnosis, screening, treatment and palliative and survivorship care including for childhood cancers;
  • strengthen health systems at national and local levels to deliver cure and care for cancer patients including improving access to cancer treatments;
  • set the agenda for cancer prevention and control in the Global Report on Cancer;
  • provide global leadership as well as technical assistance to support governments and their partners build and sustain high-quality cervical cancer control programmes through the UN Global Joint Programme on Cervical Prevention and Cancer;,  provide technical assistance for rapid, effective transfer of best practice interventions to countries.


(1) Ferlay J, Soerjomataram I, Ervik M, Dikshit R, Eser S, Mathers C et al. GLOBOCAN 2012 v1.0, Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide: IARC CancerBase No. 11

Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2013.

(2) GBD 2015 Risk Factors Collaborators. Global, regional, and national comparative risk assessment of 79 behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks or clusters of risks, 1990-2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015. Lancet. 2016 Oct; 388 (10053):1659-1724.

(3) Plummer M, de Martel C, Vignat J, Ferlay J, Bray F, Franceschi S. Global burden of cancers attributable to infections in 2012: a synthetic analysis. Lancet Glob Health. 2016 Sep;4(9):e609-16. doi: 10.1016/S2214-109X(16)30143-7.

(4) Stewart BW, Wild CP, editors. World cancer report 2014

Lyon: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2014.

(5) Global Initiative for Cancer Registry Development. International Agency for Research on Cancer

Lyon: France.


Written by Dr Melleta Louw, Student Counsellor, Wellington campus


The 21st century is experiencing increasing rates of violence, depression and addiction. Chaos, uncertainty and a feeling of dehumanization forms the backdrop to a consumer-driven society characterized by cut-throat “survival-of-the-fittest” competition in nearly all spheres of life. There is even talk of a 3rd world war….

No wonder people sometimes experience a sense of meaninglessness, a feeling that they are not in control of their own life’s.  Have you ever felt that there is no hope?  That what you experience now is all that will ever be? That your current circumstances will not change?

Take heart. The well known American writer Rebecca Solnit, in her book “Hope in the dark”, makes a convincing case for optimism for our times, and proposes good reasons never to surrender.  If we look at the history of significant social change around the globe through the decades and centuries, we see that change always do happen. It is an evolutionary fact of life, in a broader socio-political sense of the word, as well as in an individual context.  Just think of all the heroes, social movements, and shifts in consciousness which has taken place during the last century……Often change happens slowly over a long time, arising from long-dormant seeds and deep roots. Seldom is the process an easy, straight-forward one, and seldom it happens merely by chance or by luck. But change do happen.

Real change, however, depends on a certain kind of hope. It is neither the sunny everything-is-getting-better type of naive belief, nor the cloudy everything-is-getting-worse type of thinking. Both these narratives speak of a passive mind set, thinking that what you do, won’t really make a difference.  Real hope doesn’t deny realities, but face them and address them. It believes that every tiny action will eventually become a new milestone, a new encouragement to keep on working for that change that you dream of.

What is it today that you wish to change? That you dare hope for? Are you unsure which action to take? James Baldwin once said: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced”.

So, today, take that next step.  Decide to at least discuss your situation with somebody who wants to help you to move forward. Make that appointment with a student counsellor. Your reality is our business.

Remember, there is always hope……

What is Autism?

Written by Dr Charlene Petersen

World Autism Awareness Month

 What is Autism spectrum disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. ASD is a developmental disability and people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely impaired. Developmental disabilities such as ASD are brain-based, neurological conditions that have more to do with biology than with psychology.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are characterized, in varying degrees, by

  • difficulties in social interaction,
  • verbal and nonverbal communication,
  • repetitive behaviours and
  • differences in sensory perception.

Some people with ASD need high support (a lot of help and intensive intervention) while others need low support (less help and less intensive intervention).

  • Not one person with ASD is affected in the same way
  • ASD is usually diagnosed by the time a child is 3 years old
  • ASD is found in every country, every ethnic group, and very socio-economic class
  • Autism is diagnosed four times as often in boys than in girls
  • Children who are diagnosed with ASD need early intervention as soon as possible

What causes Autism spectrum disorder?

ASD is thought to have a genetic component which results in atypical neurological development and functioning. A lot of research is being done to try and find the cause of autism, but as yet there is no definite answer.

It is NOT a psychological or emotional disorder.

It is NOT the result of bad parenting and children with ASD do NOT choose to misbehave. Misbehaviour are often reactions to the environment and are expressions of the difficulties people with ASD experience.

What are the symptoms of ASD

The following characteristics are common

  •  Little awareness of others.
  • Self-injurious behaviour, e.g. head banging, scratching or biting.
  • Imaginative play may be poor. E.g. cannot play with a wooden block as if it is a car.
  • Minimal reaction to verbal input and sometimes acts as though he/she is deaf.
  • Sense of touch, taste, sight, hearing and/or smell may be heightened or lowered.
  • Changes in routine or the environment may cause distress.
  • Sudden laughing or crying for no apparent reason
  • Pursues activities repetitively and cannot be influenced by suggestions of change.
  • Changes in routine or the environment may cause distress.
  • Sudden laughing or crying for no apparent reason
  • Pursues activities repetitively and cannot be influenced by suggestions of change.
  • Uneven gross/fine motor skills.
  • Inappropriate attachment to objects.
  • Abnormal sleeping patterns.
  • Displays extreme distress and/or tantrums for no apparent reason
  • Prefers to play alone.
  • Difficulty in interacting with others
  • Little or no eye contact.
  • No real fear of dangers.

Support for ASD

Autism South Africa assists families in accessing assessment and diagnostic services by qualified professionals.
If you would like to be assisted in getting a diagnosis for yourself or your child, please download and complete the assessment application form below.
Please send it to or deliver it to your nearest Autism SA office.
You will then be contacted with the next step.
Please note, the more information the diagnosing team has the better. All school, doctors or other relevant reports must be provided.

 Autism Western Cape
Tel: 021 557 3573



Why do people cheat?

Written by Hanro Lourens.

Statistics show that 90% of South Africans feel that cheating or infidelity is unacceptable or amoral. So why then is it happening?

The dating website with their slogan “Have an affair”, is now established in 26 countries and generates $90 million annually. In South Africa alone has 163 000 subscribers and this number is growing daily. It would seem that in SA cheating is a booming business.

Noel Biderman, CEO of states that; “It is not in our DNA to be monogamous. People cheat because their physical or emotional needs are not being met and a biological drive in each and every one of us can push us to seek out change.”

Is Noel’s statement correct? Let’s look at the reasons why people cheat.

The reasons why

According to Dr. Kelly Campbell, there are three main reasons why people cheat, namely: Individual reasons, Relationship reasons and Situational reasons.

(1) Individual reasons, refer to the individual and his/her characteristics. In other words what is it about these individuals that will make them more prone to, or susceptible to cheat on their partner? Researchers has identified the following risk factors:

Gender. Men are more likely to cheat than women. This is purely biological. Because of men’s testosterone levels they are driven to engage in sex.

Personality. Some personalities are less conscientious than others. What this means is that people with a less conscientious personality will not consider their partner when engaging in infidelity. In other words, consideration for their partner will not stop them from cheating.

Religiousity. People with strong religious believes also tend to have rigid values. These values dictate their behaviour. For example, if someone does not believe in “thou shall not commit adultery” it will not stop them from committing adultery.

At this point let me remind the reader that these factors are generalizations and not meant to be interpreted as matter of fact. For example it does not mean that if you are a man you are automatically a cheater or if you are a religious person you will never cheat.

(2) Relationship reasons, refer to the level of satisfaction within the relationship. In these cases it is the dissatisfaction with the relationship that causes infidelity. It is therefore factors within the relationship that causes the person to stray. Such factors could be unfulfilled sexual needs, excessive conflict (fighting), unmet intimacy needs (talking, sharing, romance), etc. Research also indicates that partner dissimilarity could lead to dissatisfaction with the relationship. Couples could be dissimilar in terms of age, level of education, income, personality, etc.

Situational reasons, refer to the environment. Someone might not have a personality for cheating and be perfectly happy in their relationship, but still find themselves in a situation or environment which could lead to infidelity for example, going skinny dipping with friends while your partner is asleep.

The nature of a person’s employment is also related to infidelity — individuals whose work involves touching other people, having personal discussions, or a great deal of one-on-one time are more likely to have an affair. Another precursor to infidelity could be a gender imbalance in the workplace. A man working in a team that is only comprised of women could lead to the man having an affair with one of the woman.

Protect your relationship against infidelity

So it seems that Noel Biderman is correct. Some of the reasons given above fit Noel’s theory of why people cheat. However what Noel will not tell his customers, is that there are actually things you can do to protect your relationship from infidelity.

Talk to your partner about cheating. What is your partner’s definition of cheating? This will help you to understand what the boundaries of the relationship are. The couple therefore understands that if they cross a certain boundary they will be hurting their partner. For most people having sex with someone outside the relationship constitutes infidelity. However, having long conversations on your phone with someone outside of your relationship could also be considered cheating by your partner.

Foster trust. Some people believe that if they take an overbearing approach to their relationship they will prevent their partner from cheating. Such individuals will demand certain behavior form their partner and will fly into a jealous rage if the partner does not comply. They expect their partner to cheat rather than trusting them not to. This usually leads to resentment and eventually infidelity.

Instead try to foster trust in your partner. Assure your partner that you trust them, that you know they will never cheat on you. By placing your trust in your partner’s hands, they are reminded of their responsibility to be faithful. This creates a sense of solidarity between you and your partner.  Loyalty is therefore earned and not demanded.

Maintain honest communication. It is sometimes unavoidable to develop feelings for someone outside of your relationship, or what is referred to as a “crush”. Our initial response is to hide this from our partner. However in doing so these feelings are given an opportunity to grow and could lead to infidelity. We hide our “crush” from our partner because we are afraid of their reaction to our feelings for someone else.

How would you feel if your partner confessed their crush to you? Would you become angry or discuss it with them? The truth is that, however difficult it might be for our partner, once we have confessed and discussed our feelings with our partner those feelings quickly dissipate. However if a person receives a negative reaction from their partner whilst confessing, it is unlikely that they will be truthful in the future. It is therefore essential to foster honest communication between partners. Honest communication also helps to identify dissatisfaction in the relationship.

As we can see cheating is a risk attached to any relationship. However honesty, communication and a willingness to trust can significantly reduce the risk.


To all First Years: Welcome to CPUT!

Student Counselling is open to all students; on a walk-in, as well as a referral basis. We are a team of psychologists, social workers, career advisors and receptionists, there to be the heartbeat of wellness on campus. Sometimes frustrated students come to us and we refer them to the appropriate places for assistance, sometimes students unsure about their career/subject choices come see us and we help them decide what route to take, and other times it’s just life problems that bring students through our doors.

At this time of year plenty of First years often seek our help. We try to pay special attention to the needs of these first years (you guys), because we know the adjustment is often a little tougher than expected. Or perhaps you knew it would be tough, but you thought you would handle it better. Well, that’s where we come in – we would like to help you. Either come to us and see a counsellor for individual sessions or join a support group. Support groups are running on some of the campuses, these include: A men’s group, LGBTI group, exam preparation group and a first-year adjustment group, aimed specifically at helping first years with the adjustment to student life (Bellville and Cape Town Campuses).

Here are some basic things you can do or try to remember for this year:

  • You might feel lost and think that everybody seems so much more organised and clued-up than you, but remember, most students feel that way. Someone likely thinks you seem more organised than you feel.
  • If you attend class and stay relatively updated with class preparation you have already done half the work. The problem usually comes with procrastinating (putting off work you actually need to do), falling behind in class and then the next thing you know, you feel completely overwhelmed and unable to move forward. Just keep doing bits of work.
  • On the other side, you can’t work all the time and make no time for things you enjoy. It’s always important to take some downtime and rest your mind. During exam times, it is to be expected that you will study more, spend less times on leisure activities and maybe even sleep less – all the more reason to make sure you balance studying and relaxation during the rest of the year.
  • Try to suspend all judgements. University life is much more diverse than school and if you have moved from another city, there is even more to get used to. It might do you well to try and keep an open mind about people. You might disregard someone, based on preconceived ideas, whom could have been a valuable friend if you had given them the opportunity.
  • Try to expand your comfort zone. There are often things, places and people we feel comfortable with, and sometimes that is good enough. However, sometimes staying in that area of comfortability leads to us feeling stuck. Part of the university experience is to have experiences, try it (but be safe!).

Any students, first year or not, are welcome to report to their student counselling office if they are struggling to adjust to student life. We are here to help. For other opportunities of help, check out our Facebook page, watch out for competitions to win, events during the year and the launch of support or exam preparation groups on your campus.

Surviving Exams

Exam times are stressful! Pressure to hand in assignments, get through all the work and the fear of failing are all concerns every student faces. This is on top of other “life stress” that’s going on; and as we know the life stress (relationship difficulties, issues with family, health problems etc) does not go away just because it’s exam time. However, NOW we need to prioritise: Passing the next subject is the most important thing!

Straight-forward things you need to remember when you are studying:
• Drink enough water – keep hydrated
• Take regular breaks – 60-90 minute sessions
• Deep breathing before you start, to put you in a calm and focused mind-space
Try this: Close your eyes. Inhale for three seconds through your nose, hold it for three seconds, now exhale for three seconds through your mouth. Repeat this four or five times and your mind will be calmer than when you started.

To help you get through the stressful time, remember to …
1. Do something you enjoy
When we are stressed, we don’t think about what we need and enjoy but rather what we must do. Understandably the ‘nice things’ are not important right now. However, we should try to strike some balance and include a little niceness during this stressful time. Think about what you enjoy: calling home and chatting to a family member, loudly listening to a song you love, dancing on your own/with a friend, reading a book or watching funny clips on the internet. Having something to look forward to, or a little time to relax is what helps keep us going.
2. Connect
Sometimes we become very isolated during the exams (intentionally or unintentionally). Seeing friends or family helps to give us perspective, to remind us that there is still a world out there. Chatting to friends who also write exams can be useful and perhaps become a support system; studying together or taking breaks together.
3. Stay positive
Look at the positive side of exams. You are on your journey working towards your goal. Think about the results you want to achieve and the future career you imagine yourself to have. Positive visualisation can help you feel inspired and motivated. It also helps you focus on what you WANT, rather than what you DON’T WANT.
4. Spend time outdoors
Taking a walk, being aware of your surroundings; the sights, sounds and smells, could be a wonderfully distracting and refreshing event. Just what your brain needs after you have been sitting inside a room staring at books and computer screens. A little bit of exercise boosts blood to the brain, which helps you stay focused.

Remember, examinations come and go, and are usually followed by a holiday 😊

Prioritise and be kind to yourself!