Suicide: don’t be a victim

2014-12-22 00:00

AS Christmas approaches not all the merriment is catching, but for those who are feeling down in the dumps this season, help is just around the corner.

The dread of receiving exam results, Christmas family tradition, obligations and expectations are more than just a headache to some. However, there are many ways to combat the festive season blues and kick depression to the kerb.

ER24 Pietermaritzburg spokesperson Paul Knoesen said there were 55 cases of attempted suicide in Pietermaritzburg since the holiday season began.

Lifeline spokesperson Meryl Dacosta said that this time of year is usually associated with stress and anxiety due to financial stress, family issues or just feeling alone.

“Experts say the festive season can make people feel out of control. We may feel at the mercy of our relatives, steamrolled by family tradition,” said Dacosta.

“But you do have a say and the key to surviving the holidays is to take some control instead of letting them control you.”

ER24 trauma support co-ordinator Henning Jacobs said usually a suicide was a shock to the family.

“Nine out of 10 times the family did not expect the suicide. They usually state that the person did not show signs of stress or depression.

“They could not believe this person could do such a thing. The impact is severe and many people have breakdowns,” he said.

Dacosta said it was easy to recognise the signs and symptoms, which makes depression and suicide avoidable and preventable.

“If we inform and educate family members, teachers, parents, loved ones, and ourselves on what the warning signs are, and just as importantly, what to do once you have identified them and where to go for help, we can then prevent a lot of unnecessary deaths.”

Dacosta added that if you are dealing with someone who refuses to get help, it is important to remain calm, supportive, and understanding.

“During this time, the depressed loved one may feel abandoned, unloved, and misunderstood.

“You need to get your loved one help as soon as possible. We need to remember that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” she said

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group has counsellors on duty seven days a week from 8 am to 8 pm, public holidays included.

A call to 011 262 6396 or their toll-free suicide line 0800 12 13 14, offers a friendly compassionate ear, support and advice during this difficult time of year.

• chelsea.pieterse@witness.co.za

LIFELINE compiled a list of a few ways for you to find your Christmas spirit:

• Lean on your support system. If you’ve been depressed, you need a network of close friends and family to turn to when things get tough. Take time to get together with your support team.

• Ask for help and be specific. Ask your sister to help you cook, invite a friend along on shopping trips. People are usually happy to help if you tell them what you need.

• Don’t stay longer than you want. Going to a party doesn’t obligate you to stay until the bitter end. Instead, just drop by for a few minutes, say hello, and explain you have other engagements. Knowing you have a plan to leave can really ease your anxiety.

• Forget about the perfect gift. Don’t stress about finding the absolute best gift ever.

• Stick to a budget. The cost of holiday shopping mounts quickly and can make people feel out of control and anxious. Draw up a budget before you go shopping and stick to it.

• Stay on schedule. As much as you possibly can, try to stick with your normal routine during the holidays. Don’t stay too late at parties. Don’t pull an all-nighter wrapping presents. Disrupting your schedule and losing out on sleep can make your mood deteriorate.

• Don’t rely on substances. Remember that alcohol is a depressant and abusing it will leave you feeling worse. Be particularly careful if you are taking medication.

• If you take medication, don’t miss doses. In the hustle of the holidays, it’s easy to slack off and miss medication. Don’t let that happen.

Here are some of the

warning signs of depression

• Sudden behaviour change

• Overwhelming feeling of sadness

• Helplessness

• Hopelessness

• Withdrawal

• Giving away possessions

• Talking about death or suicide

• Making statements like “You would be better off if I wasn’t here” or “no one would miss me if I were gone”

• Change in eating & sleeping patterns

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