News / South Africa
With the festive season creeping closer, more suicides are being recorded and suicide statistics kept rising at an alarming rate.
Over the weekend, DA Gauteng shadow MEC for social development Refiloe Nt’sekhe said in a statement the loss of income from the Covid lockdown was the main contributing factor to a 90% increase in Gauteng suicide cases.
South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) operations director Cassey Chambers said the organisation was surprised to hear the stats released recently by the Gauteng department of social development.
Chambers said the stats seemed low, even though suicide has increased by 90%. “We believe that the suicide rate is much higher than what is reported, only because we are seeing such high volumes of calls to our helplines every single day.”
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She said for every suicide there were 20 attempts. “So the figure is much higher for people who feel suicidal or have thoughts of suicide or ending their life.”
Sadag is currently receiving more than 2 500 calls per day, of which one in every five calls were suicide calls.
“If our call volumes have increased so much since before Covid, then it is understandable that the suicide rates would increase too,” Chambers said.
She said Sadag saw an increase in the number of calls each month since the start of lockdown.
“Our call volumes went from 600 per day [pre-Covid] to 1 200 per day from the first day of lockdown.
“Twenty months later, we are receiving over 2 500 calls per day, and hundreds of more e-mails, SMSes, WhatsApps and social media messages from people reaching out for help,” she said.
Chambers said with each spike of infections, the organisation anticipated more calls to the helplines.
“Especially this festive season as so many more people are struggling to cope, dealing with depression, anxiety and trauma and financial stressors. The looming fourth wave is also causing much more anxiety and stress.”
Co-owner of Anmor Funerals in the West Rand Mornay Engelbrecht said they have had more than the average cases of suicide reported in the past six months.
“We had one yesterday, one last week and two weeks ago…” Engelbrecht said.
He said the people left behind were often left with a feeling of guilt and grief. “Especially if there were no suicide notes left behind.”
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He said a lot of people who commit suicide don’t have wills in place at the time which made it a nightmare to sort out the decease’s estate afterwards.
“Some people struggle for as long as five years to sort out suicides,” he said.
“Some people take out funeral plans and don’t read the fine print, which says that if you commit suicide within 24 months of [signing up], it won’t pay out. Six months later the person commits suicide and then the family need to fork out funds for a funeral.
He said a suicide is “much more traumatic” than death by accident or sickness “because those left behind are burdened with the question why the person committed suicide and if it could have been prevented”.