Suicide: The unseen reality of the festive season

The biggest gift anyone has is life itself. Make the right choice

The Bulletin News
The Suicide Tree by unknown artist

‘Tis the blessed season of joy and happiness. The season of giving and not expecting anything in return. It is Christmas time… but yet in this joyous time, the suicide rate skyrockets. The pressure of getting the perfect gifts for your loved ones or your children is immense. If your child does not get the latest iPhone, PlayStation or laptop what would their peers think of them? One forgets that not everyone can afford the expensive luxuries in life and having to keep up with the Joneses can be very stressful. Unfortunately, that is what the world has come to: aesthetics and unnecessary luxuries. The complete opposite of what Christmas is about: family. In recent statistics, released by SADAG (South African Depression and Anxiety Group), it has been revealed that as many as one in six people in South Africa suffers from depression, substance abuse problems or anxiety. This excludes the bigger mental health problems like schizophrenia, bipolarity etc. So why is it that people do not talk about their problems and keep it to themselves? A well-known fact is that, as South Africans, at one point or another, you have been told “Man up!”. As a society, we ignore these problems until it is too late and then there is always the “I should’ve been there” or “I could’ve helped had I known.” The truth is that as a society we do know and we do see, but yet we turn a blind eye. Hand in hand with the statistics released by SADAG are the statistics of suicide. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), South Africa is ranked sixth in the world when it comes to suicide and first in Africa. The shocking realisation that approximately 800 000 people take their own lives every year with the average age being between 15 – 29, should be a wakeup call to all. Also, to think that 11.6 out of 100,000 people in South Africa attempt suicide is very disconcerting.
In Secunda in the past week there have been six suicide attempts since Saturday, 1 December, according to an anonymous source. Out of the six attempts none have been successful because of the quick response of the emergency services. Another anonymous emergency response worker said the following: “Most people see suicide as the only option left. They feel that their family wants nothing to do with them and the easy way out would be suicide. Most, if not all of the suicide attempts that I attend are also drug related. It all depends then what has been used. If it is a scheduled medication it should be treated as soon as possible, normally within the first hour. It is also critical for the emergency response team to know whether or not the patient has medical aid or not. This is normally told to us by a family member or friend. This lets us know where to transfer the patient e.g. private or public institutions. Attempted suicide patients then get put on a 72 hour hold for suicide watch.”
When the fear of not being able to cope with one’s personal life becomes unbearable and one feels that there is no way out, remember, there is always a choice! Those people who are left behind will never understand the reasons and also wonder what could have led up to the point where the only way out is taking your life. There are many helplines and people that can assist with whom one can speak to without anyone knowing. The biggest gift anyone has is life itself. Make the right choice.– Ané Prinsloo

The shocking state of mental health in South Africa in 2018


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