“For each loss of life to suicide, there are estimated to be 20 attempted suicides, and even more people with thoughts or ideas of suicide,” says Megan Hosking, crisis line and marketing manager of Netcare Akeso mental health facilities.
“To put the scale of this mental health burden into perspective, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 703 000 individuals around the world die by suicide each year. This is one life cut short approximately every 40 seconds, and untold pain for families who are often left with many questions.”
Closer to home, Sadag reported that in SA there are 23 known suicides every day,1 while an article published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Healthfound that suicide deaths in SA were more prevalent in December (11.7%) and January (9.2%) than the rest of the year2.
“The contributing factors to suicidal thoughts and behaviours are numerous and include mental health disorders, other illnesses, substance misuse, loss, experience of trauma, and psychosocial problems. Sadly, many people who are experiencing these, or feelings of hopelessness and despair, will not reach out in time,” Hosking said.
While people who are suicidal may not always reveal their inner pain or intentions in a way that is recognisable to others, there are several common warning signs that should be taken seriously, Hosking noted. Advise patients to check in with their own mental health and that of their loved ones, and look out for any of these warning signs:
- Talking or thinking about death, harming, or killing themselves/yourself
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness and having no hope for the future
- Expressing being a “burden” to others
- Seeking out things that may be harmful, such as drugs or weapons
- Saying goodbye, or giving away possessions that they value
- Increased isolation from family members and friends
- Self-destructive behaviour
- Previous suicide attempts
- A sudden sense of calm – this could indicate the person has a plan for suicide and has made ’peace’ with their situation
“Over 75% of people who die by suicide tell someone first – it is so important to know the warning signs so you can identify when someone you care about needs urgent help,” said psychiatrist and psychologist, Dr Frans Korb.
“All suicide threats or indications should be taken seriously, and the necessary support can help keep the person safe. There is no shame in seeking assistance and it is always better to act if a person’s life could be in danger,” said Hosking.
- SADAG 24-hour Suicide Helpline 0800 567 567 or SMS 31393 and a counsellor will call you back to help
- Netcare Akeso 24-hour Crisis Helpline: 0861 435 787
- Cipla 24-hour Helpline: 0800 456 789
Suicide deaths were more prevalent in December (11.7%) and January (9.2%) and lowest in winter (May to July, the average prevalence of 7.2%).