Call for global action to focus on depression, suicide
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Pretoria - Suicide prevention remains a universal challenge – and while Covid-19-related suicides have already been reported in many countries, suicide deaths have been largely overshadowed.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 1 million people die each year from suicide.
September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day, and the WHO has called on societies to promote worldwide commitment and action to prevent suicide.
The founder of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag), Zane Wilson, yesterday said every suicide was devastating, and had a profound impact on loved ones, family and friends left behind.
However, by raising awareness, reducing the stigma around suicide and encouraging well-informed action, everyone could reduce and prevent suicides, Wilson said.
“World Suicide Prevention Day is an opportunity to raise awareness of suicide and to promote action through community engagement that could reduce the number of suicides and suicide attempts by educating the public and debunking myths. We want to ensure that people have the tools and resources to support those who are struggling and to encourage those who are thinking about suicide to reach out for help before it is too late.”
During the first few weeks of lockdown last year, the organisation surveyed 1 214 South Africans about their state of mental health. About 12% of them said they were feeling suicidal, and of calls Sadag received, most (about 85%) came from women.
Even before lockdown, about 23 South Africans died by suicide and 230 serious attempts were made daily.
The WHO said at least one suicide occurs every 40 seconds and an attempt is made every three seconds.
In South Africa, hanging is the most frequent method of suicide, followed by shooting, gassing and burning.
The organisation said risk factors among the young included the presence of mental illness, especially depression, conduct disorder, alcohol and drug abuse; previous suicide attempts; and the availability of firearms in the home.
“In South Africa 60% of people who commit suicide are depressed. The average suicide is 17.2 per 100 000 (8% of all deaths). This relates only to deaths reported by academic hospitals. The real figure is higher,” it said yesterday, adding that suicide should not be kept a secret.
“We cannot measure the value of life cut short by suicide. We cannot calculate the impact a person might have had on the world around them or on the people whose lives they may have touched.
“But through a partnership between survivors, business and community leaders, scientists and dedicated individuals we can vanish this needless tragedy.”
The WHO encouraged people to look out for specific signs of suicidal people, although many did occur without any outward warning.
Danger signs included previous suicide attempts, talking about death or suicide and depression.