Prevent suicide

2019-10-02 06:01

SUICIDE is a major public health issue that affects the lives of all people. From different social classes, to different genders, to the ones who attempt suicide, the ones who complete it and the ones left behind, the enormity of its effects reverberate throughout society.

For 2019’s World Mental Health Month, the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) has chosen to focus on the issue of suicide. The South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH) will be supporting this theme for its annual October Mental Health Awareness Campaign and will be facilitating various awareness initiatives around it.

The following illustrates what suicide is, what its effects are, who it affects, how this has become an issue on social media platforms, and will outline the activities SAFMH intends to undertake for October.

Turecki and Brent (2016) define suicide as “a fatal self-injurious act with some evidence of intent to die.” They define a suicide attempt as a “potentially self-injurious behaviour associated with at least some intent to die.”

STATISTICS ON SUICIDE NOTE THAT:

• According to the World Health Organisation (2018), some 800 000 people die on account of suicide on an annual basis. This amounts to one individual every 40 seconds

• Accounting for 1,4% of all deaths across the world, suicide is ranked the 18th leading cause of death according to the WHO (no date)

• Among 15-29 year olds, suicide is the second leading cause of death according to the WHO (2018)

• In its analysis, the WHO (2018) discusses the prevalence of suicide at a global level, and highlights that 79% of suicides took place in low and middle income countries in 2016 — a fact that should be of great concern to SA as it falls into the latter of the two categories

• WHO also highlights that for every completed suicide, there may be over 20 attempted suicides

• There exist gender differences in suicide. Men are most likely to carry out a completed suicide, while women are more likely to attempt to take their own lives

Suicide is clearly a major issue, but what can we do?

There exists no cohesive mental health strategy, policy or action plan specifically on suicide. This is problematic because suicide is a specialised issue requiring a specialised response.

In light of this, government must take steps to formulate such a document, with the view to engage in prevention and early intervention tactics, as well as to address those who have attempted to take their lives and to address the aftermath in the event that someone has already taken their life.

Psychosocial support is key to ensuring that individuals affected by suicide receive the correct forms of attention in these difficult times.

Stigma concerning suicide is also rife.

People do not view suicide as being part of an illness, but rather often as a selfish act.

We wish to strongly advocate that this is not the case and to encourage members of the public to become educated about suicide, what the risk factors are, what the warning signs are that someone might be thinking about taking their own life, and what they can do to help.

We call upon government and civil society to take steps to provide this education.

If the stigma surrounding suicide is diminished, people who are thinking about suicide will be more likely to come forward and seek help, thus hopefully reducing suicide rates.

Finally, we urge people who are thinking about suicide to seek help. This may be difficult, but there are avenues down which one can venture in order to do this.

Take a friend or family member into your confidence and tell them what you are feeling or consult a professional.

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group has a 24-hour Suicide Crisis Line, which can be contacted on 0800 567 567.

We urge people to make use of this resource, which could save lives.

The issue of suicide simply can- not be ignored — too many lives are lost each day for this to not be a priority.

Mental Health Awareness Month offers us an opportunity to appreciate the gravity of this situation and to take action.

It’s time to work together to try and end suicide.

Pietermaritzburg Mental Health is a non-profit organisation that renders services to persons with mental and intellectual disabilities.

We are offering talks by our social workers to individuals, schools and companies regarding suicide.

For further queries please contact our Social Work Centre at 033 392 7240.

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