SA Suicide Rate Soaring, Webinar Hears
The increasing number of suicides in South Africa and financial pressure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic were highlighted during a webinar on Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Support hosted by UKZN’s Corporate Relations Division and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
Also discussed at the webinar - an initiative of the newly-launched UKZN Wellbeing Communication Strategy - were how gender-based violence, feelings of anxiety, exposure to negative news cycles, and other social ills contribute towards people taking their own lives.
Presenters shared coping mechanisms, how to identify suicidal symptoms, reaching out, and where help is available.
Speakers included lay counsellor and board member at Lifeline Durban, Ms Asiya Hoosain, clinical psychologist Mrs Kirschnee Naidoo, and UKZN lecturer, clinical psychologist and Head of Psychology at King Edward VIII Hospital Dr Naseema Vawda. The facilitator of the webinar was the Victim Assistant Officer at the Thuthuzela Centre, Ms Cebile Fuse who is from the Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit (SOCA) of the NPA.
Hoosain, a counsellor for the past 14 years, said suicide was South Africa’s second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 29, with over 800 000 people dying by their own hands every year - one every 40 seconds! She said suicide was prevalent in low- and middle-income countries and a major public health concern in our country.
Hoosain shared names of organisations and foundations that create awareness campaigns and assist in reaching out to those in need of help. She encouraged family and friends to know the signs, find the words and reach out.
Hoosain reminded the audience that victims of suicide were brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters etc, and were missed and loved every day. ‘Don’t judge what you cannot possibly understand,’ she said, quoting Winston Churchill. ‘Courage is what it takes to sit down and listen.’
Vawda, whose research interests include suicidal behaviour, said Durban had the highest suicide rate in South Africa for males, although there were more attempts from women but fewer deaths.
She spoke on some of the risk factors in adults and children which in adults included mood disorders especially depression, anxiety, substance-induced psychosis, physical and sexual abuse, divorce, pregnancy - especially when it causes conflict between partners - and unemployment. On risk factors in children, she highlighted family conflict, school-related problems, over-controlling parents, parental loss through death or divorce, bullying, anger and low self-esteem. She added that a family history of mental disorders could be a contributing factor.
Vawda encouraged people to manage thoughts, regulate emotions, develop good coping skills and the ability to resolve problems and to not use substance abuse as a coping mechanism.
Warning about the impact of social media, she said people ‘must develop resilience and develop children who can get up, stand up, fall down and still get up and get going.’
Naidoo who is currently studying for her PhD in Psychology, also emphasised that people need to remember that it is ok to not feel ok at times, and to ‘realise we are all human and go through difficult times. The key is to start managing our thoughts. If we don’t feel good about ourselves, it is easy to allow negative thoughts,’ said Naidoo.
She shared tips on how to help, what won’t help and how to come up with a crisis plan when dealing with someone who is suicidal. Naidoo shared a relaxation exercise with the audience, a tool to use when dealing with stress and anxiety.
Delivering the vote of thanks, NPA Advocate Dawn Coleman-Malinga said that although she was saddened by the high number of young people committing suicide, a positive was that help was available out there.
Coleman-Malinga thanked the speakers for sharing their knowledge and experiences with the audience, including the helpline numbers provided. She encouraged those with suicidal thoughts to reach out to those organisations and get the necessary help.
She thanked Fuse for facilitating the session, the UKZN Corporate Relations staff members for putting together the webinar and the audience for participating.
Suicide prevention and mental health support contact details:
• UKZN Toll-free line - 0800 800 017 / email: email@example.com
South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) emergency lines:
• Bipolar Line - 0800 70 80 90
• Dr Reddy’s Helpline - 0800 21 22 23
• Pharmadynamics Police and Trauma Line - 0800 20 50 26
• Sanofi Aventis Sleep Line - 0800 SLEEPY (0800 753 379)
• Suicide Crisis Line - 0800 567 567 (SMS 31393)
• Department of Social Development Substance Abuse 24hr helpline - 0800 12 13 14 (SMS 32312)
• SADAG Mental Health Line - 011 262 6396
• LIFELINE Crisis Line and Mental Health support Groups - 031 312 2323 / Office Line 031 303 1344
• ADHD Helpline - 0800 55 44 33
Words: Sithembile Shabangu