Mental health organisations have embarked on raising awareness of depression – the leading cause of many suicides.
According to South African Anxiety and Depression Group (SADAG), the recent suicides of beloved figures Professor Bongani Mayosi, American fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain have left the world stunned by the effects of suicide and depression.
All of these public figures were hugely successful and surrounded by family, friends and admirers – making them a reminder of how prevalent depression and suicides are all over the world. Suicide can devastate entire families and communities.
“We need to get people help before it is too late,” commented an official from Sadag, explaining that in South Africa, one in three people will or do have a mental illness at some point in their lifetime. Every day there are 23 completed suicides in South Africa and a further 460 attempted suicides.
Nicole Breen of the South African Federation of Mental Health (SAFMH), says: “This represents an important opportunity to reflect on past interventions surrounding this cause, to examine present ones and to look towards what we want to see in the future. It is an area both neglected and stigmatised in our country – with no real state-implemented initiatives to curb this phenomenon. Suicide needs to be taken seriously because of the damage it does – both to the person tragically committing suicide and the people left behind.”
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) about 800 000 people die of suicide every year. This amounts to one individual every 40 seconds, accounting for 1.4% of all deaths across the world. Among young people it is the second leading cause of death and a real cause for concern.
“In many instances, when a person is feeling suicidal, they feel isolated and as though they cannot seek help. This may be – as is all too often the case – that adequate help is not available. It may also, however, be as a result of actual or perceived stigma. Suicide is taboo in many societies and people may be concerned that feeling suicidal is a display of weakness and that stigma needs to be dispelled,” says Breen.
For more help on depression and suicide, contact SADAG on 0800567 567 or SAFMH 011 781-1852.
An edited version of this story was published by Health24.