Mental Health Issues and Suicide are on the Rise
Did you know that suicide in the 15 to 24-year-old age group is now becoming the fastest growing cause of death in South Africa? In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not surprising the figures are climbing. It was revealed in August 2020 that close to 1 800 people committed suicide in the country in the four months following the initial lockdown.
Dr Mathabathe Jermina Sebei, a psychiatrist at Lenmed Randfontein Private Hospital, reports that there are an estimated 23 suicides per day in the country, and 60% of people who commit suicide are depressed, although most who are depressed are not suicidal.
She believes the pandemic has played a big role in increasing anxiety and depressive symptoms in people who may already have existing or pre-existing undiagnosed mental disorders. Further isolating people in lockdown hasn’t helped matters.
“Men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women,” says Dr Sebei.
The following 7 factors put people at a higher risk of attempting suicide:
- They lack the coping skills
- They suffer from depression
- They have bipolar disorder
- They struggle with anxiety
- They lack a decent social support system
- They may have a psychosis
- They may be using substances such as drugs and alcohol to get through the day
If you are worried about a loved one’s mental health, these are some important tips Dr Sebei recommends you use to help them and lead them away from suicidal thoughts:
- Be a good listener
- Be kind and sensitive
- Take note of any changes in their behaviour and gently ask if something is troubling them
- Check these warning signs:
- Extreme sadness or moodiness
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Sleep problems
- Sudden calmness after a period of depression
- Withdrawal from social activities and life in general
- Dangerous or self-harm behaviour
- A trigger such as a recent trauma or life health crisis
- Be upfront and ask your depressed loved one if they think about suicide
- Don’t argue with someone who has suicidal thoughts – be calm and kind
- Suggest they seek help from a professional
If you are suffering with mental health challenges, Dr Sebei suggests you follow these tips to reduce your suicide risk:
- Try not to be alone when you are feeling very anxious and low
- Don’t use drugs or alcohol
- Ask loved ones to lock away dangerous weapons if you have self-harming thoughts
- Avoid isolation at all costs
- Keep pictures of your loved ones or pets with you
- Even better, get a pet as a companion
Mental health can only be managed and properly dealt with when it is acknowledged and treated. If you or a loved one needs advice on where to seek help, you can do so by calling SADAG on 0800 056 7567 or SMS 31393. You can also make an urgent appointment with your doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist. If you are struggling to get an appointment, go straight to your nearest casualty.
Thank you to the Randfontein Herald for this information, based on an interview with Dr Sebei and first published on 2 September 2021.
The lenmed Group is a world-class chain of Private Hospitals that brings quality healthcare to communities across Southern Africa.
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Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.