Suicide rates have never been higher in the world than they are today and this was before the covid 19 pandemic. In 2019, the WHO released figures indicating that one attempt is successfully completed in the world every 40 seconds. So this is 90 every hour if my maths serves me correctly.
The SA Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) has stats indicating that we have a successfully completed suicide every hour. They have also found and that our men are at significantly greater risk than our women. This is not necessarily the global trend.
Usually people who carry out suicide successfully have an underlying mental illness (in about 90% of cases). The most common mental illnesses are depression, anxiety and substance use disorders, or a combination of all three. Mental illness and suicidal ideation can be precipitated, perpetuated or aggravated by life events. These include financial and work difficulties, relationship problems and illness. Several research studies have shown that men are particularly vulnerable when experiencing financial and work related difficulties.
The covid 19’s effect on everyone’s work and financial circumstances is going to range between mild and catastrophic. Many people are going to lose or suffer a significant reduction in their source of income. Many people are not going to have access to bail out from the government, financial institutions or family. Without wanting to be all doom and gloom, I predict that with this is going to come an increase in suicide rates.
How are we going to deal with this? In short, I don’t know. We have a limited number of services to assist people who are feeling suicidal and most Psychologists are unavailable because of lockdown.
All I can really suggest for now is try to be aware of this risk in your own community. Be extra sensitive to what people say and how they are behaving. Some of the signs exhibited by people who may be suicidal include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Increase in substance use.
- Depressed mood.
- Sudden calmness. Suddenly becoming calm after a period of depression or moodiness can be a sign that the person has made a decision to end his or her life.
- Self-neglect / loss of interest in health and appearance.
- Reckless behaviour.
- Social withdrawal – from family, friends, colleagues.
- Unusual preoccupation with death and dying.
If you think someone you know might be feeling suicidal, talk to them about it because you may regret it if you don’t. Don’t think you can solve their problems and don’t take responsibility for their actions. Some resources that you could refer them to include the following:
SADAG Suicide Prevention Line
SADAG’s Suicide Prevention Line offers 24-hour support to people in South Africa who are at risk of suicide.
Tel: 0800 567 567
South Africa Suicide Crisis Helpline
South Africa Suicide Crisis Helpline offers 24-hour support to people in South Africa who are in distress or at risk of suicide.
Tel: 0800 21 22 23
Tel: 0800 12 13 14
Take care of yourself and those around you.