Namhla Tshisela

Namhla Tshisela

Two years ago a Soweto teacher survived a suicide attempt but life's hardships eventually pushed him over the edge.

Deproverb Pitane's decomposing body was found hanging from the rafters at his parents' home in Mapetla last week.

His wife Portia saw him for the last time on Wednesday, when he was thought to have died.

"He was upbeat. He was on his way to the department of education's district office in Lenasia to submit his CV and spoke about finding another job and buying a house," said Portia.

Pitane's death has left his grieving family and friends battling with guilt and many unanswered questions.

"I feel guilty because as a medical professional I should have picked up that something was wrong," said his friend Dr Ratsheng Masebelanga.

"We were supposed to meet on the day he died. I wonder if there was something I could have said to convince him not to do it."

Portia said her husband of 16 years had sunk into despair earlier that week when his contract of employment at a local school was not renewed.

She said Pitane's zest for life had been restored when he was offered a temporary job at the school where he taught English and History, six months after his first suicide attempt.

"Working gave him hope. It uplifted his spirit and made him happy again," said Portia.

Masebelanga said Pitane had tried to kill himself in December 2007.

"He slashed his throat. He survived because his injuries were not severe. He said he felt overwhelmed by his problems, " said Masebelanga.

He said Pitane was diagnosed with depression and admitted to a psychiatric ward.

Masebelanga said his friend was under pressure to once again be able to provide for his family after being unemployed for more than three years.

"He became withdrawn and drank more than usual but the stress wouldn't go away," said Masebelanga.

His nephew, Pule Pitane, said his uncle had complained about hearing voices in his head and had an unfounded fear of "people out to get him".

Cassey Amoore of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) said depression increased the risk of suicide in sufferers.

"Depression is a whole body illness affecting your body, moods and thoughts. It lowers a person's ability to cope with crises," said Amoore.

Amoore said 22 suicides occurred in South Africa everyday and 220 people attempted it on a daily basis.

She said suicide was common in women and men but men were more aggressive in their methods, often opting for hanging or shooting themselves. Women often killed themselves by overdosing on pills or poison.

She said there were contributing factors to depression and it was worsened by lack of treatment, counselling or medication.

Amoore said those suffering from depression would experience sadness, hopelessness, exhaustion, agitation and may also notice changes in their eating and sleeping patterns.

She said those with close family relationships, ability to communicate, interact with people and discuss their problems coped better with stressful situations and were less likely to commit suicide.

Amoore said trauma and grief counselling were important for families whose relative had committed suicide.