Thursday, 9th September 2021
World Suicide Prevention Day – SADAG is Creating Hope through Action
World Suicide Prevention Day is commemorated globally on the 10th September, and this year the international theme is “Creating Hope Through Action.” The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), which runs the country’s dedicated Suicide Crisis Helpline (0800 567 567) has received over 75 000 suicide calls since January 2021 from people who are really struggling, having serious suicidal thoughts, behaviours, and callers who have previously attempted suicide. There are still many more people who haven’t reached out, or who are too scared to talk to someone, and don’t know where to go for help.
Suicide in South Africa has always been a concerning issue with high rates of suicide even before COVID19, especially amongst men who are four times more likely to die by suicide than women. SADAG has had a direct impact on the population’s mental health since COVID19 lockdown last year, with more and more people reaching out for help every single day, especially youth as they make up the majority of callers contacting SADAG.
“Before COVID lockdown in 2020, we were receiving about 600 calls per day. At the beginning of lockdown our call volumes doubled overnight to 1200 per day. Now 18 months later, we are fielding over 2 200 calls per day. And this figure excludes the hundreds, and thousands more, emails, whatsapp’s, social media and sms messages from people reaching out for help each day,” says SADAG’s Operations Director, Cassey Chambers. The COVID19 pandemic has contributed to increased feelings of isolation, vulnerability, trauma, depression and anxiety amongst all age groups, races, genders and socio-economic backgrounds – suicide does not discriminate.
Talking about suicide has often been viewed as a very taboo and shameful topic, with many too scared to talk about Suicide in the fear that it may “plant the seed” or that they would say the wrong thing. Zamo Mbele, Clinical Psychologist and SADAG Board Member says “You don’t need to have all the answers. People are often reluctant to intervene, for many reasons including fear or not knowing what to say or saying the wrong thing. It is important to remember, there is no specific formula. People in distress, who are thinking about suicide are not looking for specific advice. They are looking for compassion, empathy and a lack of judgement.”
For World Suicide Prevention Day, and every other day of the year, SADAG is encouraging South African’s to “Create Hope Through Action” by:
1. Learning the warning signs of suicide and symptoms of depression
2. Changing the way we talk about or refer to mental health and Suicide in our day-to-day conversations (Visit SADAG’s website www.sadag.org for a Language Guide on Suicide)
3. Take the time to reach out to someone who is not coping – a family member, friend, colleague, or even a stranger – checking in, asking directly if they are feeling suicidal or asking how they are really doing, knowing what to do or who to speak to for help for someone who may be feeling suicidal could change the course of their life and open an important conversation.
4. Creating awareness – change starts with us. Sharing resources and helpful information on mental health and suicide can help educate others, normalise conversations around difficult topics and link people to treatment and support
Our actions, no matter how big or small, may provide hope to those who are struggling, feeling helpless, alone and hopeless. By creating hope through action, we can highlight to people who feel suicidal that there is hope, that we care and want to support them.
SADAG will be hosting various online activities (Facebook Friday LIVE Video session, Tik Tok Q&A, Mindful Monday discussion with Miss South Africa, Shudu), Community engagements, as well as sharing key information, resources, videos and toolkits over the next few weeks on how to help someone, how to identify warning signs and how to get help.
Preventing suicide is often possible and we are key players in its prevention – through action we can make a difference in someone’s darkest moments. SADAG are working hard to eliminate stigma so that you, your loved ones and friends know that there is always help and there is always hope. Talking about or threatening suicide may be a desperate cry for help. SADAG urges families, parents, loved ones and colleagues to take every Suicide mention, threat & attempt seriously.
Psychiatrist and Psychologist, Dr Frans Korb, says “Over 75% of people who die by suicide tell someone first – it is so important to know the warning signs so you can identify when someone you care about needs urgent help.”
If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal or thinking about ending their life, please urgently speak to a mental health professional (Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Social Worker, GP or Counsellor), or contact the Suicide Helpline 0800 567 567, Cipla Helpline 0800 456 789, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Or sms 31393 and a counsellor will call you back to help. For more information, contact details, resources, online tools and activities to get involved in, visit www.sadag.org