Updated: Mar 7
What to know and what to do:
Suicide in South Africa:
South Africa has the third-highest suicide rate in whole Africa. According to statistics men in South Africa are four times more likely than women to commit suicide. High-profile South African celebrities who died of suicide in year 2022 are actor Patrick Shai and musicians Riky Rick and Tumi Tladi.
What is Suicide?
Suicide refers to taking one's own life. People may use it as a means of escaping pain or misery. We refer to someone as having "died by suicide" when they take their own life. A "suicide attempt" is a suicide attempt that did not result in death.
This is a list of possible suicidal triggers:
Mental Illness Diagnosis
Death of a loved one
Work Pressure & Stress
Loss of job
Here are some warning signs of suicide?
While some people keep their suicidal thoughts to themselves, some people discuss their suicidal thoughts openly. When someone needs help, there are warning signs that they do. Warning signs can be observed simultaneously. See warning signs below:
The person says they have no reason to live.
The person seems very scared or worried.
The person feels there is no way out of a situation.
Expressions of hopelessness or helplessness
An overwhelming sense of shame or guilt
A dramatic change in personality or appearance
Irrational or bizarre behavior
Changed eating or sleeping habits
A severe drop in school or work performance
Written or spoken notice of intention to commit suicide
Anxiety or agitation
Substance Abuse – excessive or increased
Social Withdrawal – friends / family / society
Anger – uncontrolled rage / seeking revenge / partner violence
Recklessness – risky acts / unthinking
Dramatic mood changes
Signs of acute suicide risk:
Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or obtaining a gun
Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
Talking about being a burden to others
Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
Withdrawing or feeling isolated
Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
Important factors that should not be ignored:
Suicide attempts in the past significantly raise the likelihood of later attempts or suicide.
Situations that cause embarrassment, shame, or despair increase risk. These might include loss of relationship, financial or health status – real or anticipated.
Having firearms nearby increases the risk for someone who is already at high risk.
Myths and facts of suicide:
Myth: Suicide is not very common.
Fact: Someone dies by suicide almost every day in South Africa
Myth: Thinking about suicide is not very common.
Fact: One in every nine people has thought about suicide at some time.
Myth: Someone who wants to die by suicide just wants to die.
Fact: People who die by suicide do not necessarily want to end their lives. They want to get rid of bad things in their lives. They do not know what else to do.
Myth: People who attempt suicide just want attention.
Fact: A suicide attempt does show that someone needs help. People who attempt suicide often think it is the only way to stop their pain. Their feelings are very real and very hard to deal with.
Myth: People who survive a suicide attempt will never try to end their life again.
Fact: Most people who die by suicide have attempted suicide in the past.
Myth: Only people with a mental illness think about suicide.
Fact: You do not need to have a mental illness to think about suicide. Some people think about suicide because they do not know what else to do. But many people who attempt suicide or die by suicide have a mental illness. They may not know they have a mental illness at the time.
Myth: Talking about suicide will make people think about dying by suicide.
Fact: Talking about suicide does not give people ideas. Talking honestly about suicide is a good way to find out if someone needs help. Talking about suicide lowers the risk of suicide.
How can I help someone who is considering suicide?
Discussing suicide is crucial if you are worried about someone else. Talking about suicide won't give them any inspiration. To learn how you can assist, you need to have a discussion about it. Ask the other person whether they have any plans to terminate their life soon and if so, do they have a plan? It is an emergency if they do have a plan to end their lives. Then it is important not to leave the other person alone, it is then time to take action. Contact a mental health professional or Suicide Crisis line: 0800 567 567. I have also attached a list of helplines for you at the bottom of the blog. These professionals can send emergency support. It is important to stay with the person until the suicide crisis line workers or emergency workers say you can leave. Even though they do not have a plan to end their life, they still need additional help, such as a recommended mental health professional. You can also support them by listening to them.
How to support a person considering suicide by listening:
Many people believe that they are alone with their severe emotions. If you listen to them , it shows them that they are not alone and that someone does care. Listening doesn’t require action, but requires attentive listening and will assure the person of your support.
The following details are important to keep in mind:
Take the other person seriously. They require help as they are in pain.
Listen to them without judgement, don’t make fun of them.
Trust is very important for someone who needs help. Therefore, avoid making commitments you cannot keep.
Telling someone to "cheer up" or "get yourself together" is not appropriate counsel.
Say things such as "I don't want you to die" or "You are incredibly important to me." You might also say, I understand your feelings, but let me assit you to find other solutions.
Connect them with support:
Ask them if they have anyone to support them for instance a friend or family member. Another option might be a doctor or therapist. It is important to give them the suicide crisis number as well and the other numbers below.
Get free support from a suicide hotline in South Africa...
Below is a list of South African suicide hotlines. Please choose one and call the appropriate number. The person who answers is likely to be able to guide you to the right place if they can’t help.
1. Suicide Crisis line: 0800 567 567.
2. South African Depression & Anxiety Group (SADAG) (0800) 12 13 14 (0800) 70 80 90