Depression is the ‘unseen killer’ – Sadag

The reported suicide of Academy Award-winning actor Robin Williams has highlighted depression as being the 'unseen killer', according to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag).

Williams was found dead in his residence in Tiburon, California on Monday after a reported battle with depression.

Sadag founder Zane Wilson said depression can affect anyone.

“Sadag receives calls, emails and texts daily from people who are considering taking their own lives,” said Wilson.

“There are 23 completed suicides in South Africa, and a further 230 attempted suicides every 24 hours.”

Williams’ death follows a number of public suicides in the country this month, including that of a security guard in Menlyn Shopping Centre in Pretoria; one at the University of Pretoria and another at Bedfordview shopping complex.

South African-based comedian Mel Miller said, “If you had measles or diabetes, you would know and see it and would do something about it. If you had a headache you would take a pill, why don’t we do the same if we are feeling depressed?”

Miller added that he remained at a loss as to why men in particular do not talk about their feelings.

“We need to dispel the cowboys don’t cry attitude. If you are feeling down or depressed, get help, seek a professional, they can help you,” he said.

Image courtesy

Image courtesy


A few warning signs of suicide to look out for are:

  • Talking or joking about suicide
  • Depression
  • Preparing for death or writing goodbye notes
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Changes in personality
  • Drastic changes in sleeping and eating habits
  • Loss of interest in appearance


 If one of your loved ones is showing any of these warning signs, here are a few tips to help them:

  • A person who is suicidal needs to know you care. Listen to them. Ask questions. Help them discuss their feelings. Remind them that they shouldn’t feel ashamed or guilty.
  •  Invite them out. Realise they might not want to go at first. If they say no, ask them again later or offer to stay in and spend time with them.
  •  If you are worried they might be suicidal, ask them about it and help them get help. A straightforward, caring question about suicide will not cause someone to start having suicidal thoughts. If they are thinking of suicide, tell someone you trust immediately.
  •  Talk to them about attending a support group meeting. It can help them to know they are not alone.
  •  Make sure they do not have access to things that can cause injury – such as knives, guns, alcohol or drugs.
  •  If the person is in immediate danger, take the person to a hospital, casualty or to a clinic.
  •  And DO NOT take responsibility for making your friend or family member well. You are not a therapist.


If you, or someone you know, may be at risk of being suicidal or who is feeling depressed, please call the Sadag’s suicide crisis helpline on 0800-567-567 and speak to a counsellor.

For more information on depression and suicide, visit

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