Violence, trauma, financial instability are driving South Africans to suicide

Death by hanging is one of the most common forms of suicide in SA. Stock image.
Death by hanging is one of the most common forms of suicide in SA. Stock image.
Image: Stock Image

South Africans are increasingly hanging, poisoning and shooting themselves because of easy access to instruments of suicide.

Death by hanging is one of the most common forms of suicide in SA.

“This is because you can basically hang yourself with just about anything you can lay your hands on,” said forensic psychiatrist Dr Larissa Panieri.

The startling statistics of suicide and mental health issues in SA were unpacked by experts in Johannesburg on Wednesday, at a press workshop hosted by the SA Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag).

They warned that suicide in SA had reached “epidemic” proportions, ahead of World Mental Day on Thursday.

“It's about access prevention. If we can limit certain things, particularly firearms in the home, we can limit a tragic moment in time. A gun in the home also increases the likelihood of a suicide fivefold,” said Panieri.

Sadag's operations director, Cassey Chambers, said since January this year more than 180,000 calls were received from desperate and helpless South Africans, with 46,000 of them suicide-related.

“Something is seriously wrong. The demand for our services and interventions is increasing every day,” said Chambers.

Sadag has also seen an increasing number of requests from high and primary schools for talks about suicide and depression.

Chambers said the youngest person to commit suicide in SA was a six-year-old boy.

“It happened at school. It was his second attempt. He left his classroom and never returned.”

Chambers shared some of the SMSes received by Sadag this week from South Africans, young and old, most of them contemplating suicide.

“I'm about to commit suicide don't know what to do after school. I'm going straight home to eat poison,” one read.

“Officially on the streets as from today. House sold. No place to go, no job. Just feel so so sad, alone, suicidal. No way out of this,” read another.

Chambers said financial problems, violence and trauma were some of the factors driving South Africans to contemplate suicide or end their lives.

She said a serious lack of medical facilities to treat people suffering with mental illness posed a huge problem in SA.

“Government needs to invest more money into mental health.”