By the time you have finished reading this line, someone would have attempted to take their own life. It doesn’t always happen to someone who is plagued by a history of mental health issues.
It can happen to a top achiever and someone who appears to have it all. However, it remains one of the most unaddressed issues South Africans face.
Someone takes their life every 40 seconds
Many stigmas surround mental health issues. The biggest of these being the silence that surrounds it. According to the World Health Organisation, someone takes their life every 40 seconds with many of these being men. Suicide continues to be the white elephant in the room that people do not address until it’s too late.
The illusion comes through many misconceptions that are spread in communities that suicide is only for someone who is visibly depressed or is going through financial hardship. While this is sometimes true, it is limited to other aspects that might drive someone to commit suicide.
World Suicide Prevention Day, which occurs every year on the 10th of September, aims to highlight the issues that suicide is still met with, along with the signs and symptoms to help spot if someone is feeling suicidal.
One of the common misconceptions surrounding suicide and depression is that someone will be in a perpetual state of visible sadness, however, this could be hidden behind a smile. Smiling depression is when someone continues to be productive or even portray a positive attitude despite feeling depressed. This has resulted in 460 completed and attempted suicides per day in South Africa. A total of 800 000 preventable deaths that occur each year.
A person can suffer from depression and suicide because of financial issues, academic pressures, feeling like a failure, family and relationship problems or feeling like they do not have the moral support from close friends and family.
Tips on recognising signs and symptoms
Being aware if someone is depressed or feeling suicidal means knowing the signs and symptoms. This could help save a life. Warning signs are:
Focus on death such as talking about it more frequently, joking about death, or curiosity in death.
Feeling a deep sense of despair by talking about how they are a burden to others, feeling pain, or invisible to others.
Becomes withdrawn by isolating themselves from friends and family, activities they used to enjoy, or prefers spending most of their time alone.
Acts recklessly by participating in activities that can put them in danger such as taking drugs, drinking excessively, driving drunk, being physical, or having risky sex.
Change in sleep patterns and mood swings such as being unable to sleep or excessive sleep, lack of energy, feeling hopeless, irritable or negative.
It is possible to reach out for help and find a support system of people that will be able to assist you during this difficult time. You are not alone, and you matter! If you are suffering from depression or feeling suicidal please contact the 24/7 SADAG suicide helpline on 0800 567 567 for free counselling, information, or referral to resources.