Depression is killing us

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You’re more likely to kill yourself than to be killed, say the statistics. In South Africa, suicide is the third greatest cause of unnatural death, with approximately six to eight thousand suicides each year. Over 20 suicides and more than 230 attempted suicides are reported daily in the country, says the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG). 

Why are people killing themselves? 
Depression is the leading cause for suicide. Depression can make you feel worthless, hopeless, and helpless. The deeper the depression, the more discouraged you feel. And, the more likely you are to consider suicide. 

According to SADAG, 60 percent of people who commit suicide are depressed. This is especially common in South Africa, considering our high unemployment rates, crime, poverty, cost of living, and faltering economy.

Spot the symptoms
The signs will be there; research says that 75 percent of all suicides give some warning.

1. Talking or joking about suicide. Those contemplating suicide may talk about dying, harming themselves, or speak as if they’re saying goodbye or going away. Listen for statements like: “I won’t be around for much longer” or “I wish I was dead.” 

2. Tying up loose ends. Someone considering suicide may give away their valuables, pay off debts or change a will while planning for death.  

3. Risky behaviours. To make themselves feel better or numb the pain, people who are suicidal often engage in risky, dangerous behaviours like drinking and driving, taking drugs, and having unprotected sex. 

4. Loss of interest. Suicidal people may lose interest in things they once enjoyed. They may also stop caring for their appearance or drop their hygiene standards. 

5. Feeling guilty. Excessive and inappropriate feelings of guilt are a suicidal red flag. Someone who criticises or blames themselves for everything may be on the brink of taking their life. Keep an ear out for statements like “I’m pathetic”, “I can’t do anything right”, or “This world would be a better place without me.”

Help at hand
If you notice any of these symptoms in a friend or family member, take it seriously.

  • Don’t wait to see if he feels better. Talk openly about his problems and feelings. Voice your concerns, and ask him to share his thoughts with you. This may help him feel less alone and misunderstood.  
  • Listen to what he’s saying and accept his feelings. Avoid lecturing or being judgemental. Don’t try to argue or debate him out of his depression. Rather let him know that you care and are there for him.
  • Don’t leave him on his own. When someone is in the grips of suicidal thoughts, it’s vital for them to know they’re not alone. Whether this means checking in every day, or even offering to stay with this friend or family member, it could make all the differencee.
  • Remove any weapons or drugs he could use to harm himself.
  • Encourage him to get help from a doctor or psychologist. Be persistent and go with him if possible. Stay supportive, and remind him to take his medication as prescribed.  
  • It’s okay for you to feel out of your depth and not have all the answers to help out. Contact SADAG on 011 234 4837 for resources. For a suicidal emergency, call 0800 567 567. 

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