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Editorial: Stopping suicide is a collective challenge

It is referred to as suicide, or taking your own life. 

The simple definition in a dictionary says suicide refers to “a person who has killed themselves intentionally”. Note the use of the singular form, “self”, or “a person”. 

Without putting the blame on others when someone dies of suicide, it is worth mentioning that although it is a one-person act, no person lives in total isolation. There are family, friends, neighbours, people you brush shoulders with on a daily basis — colleagues, the person you greet on the street, the cashier at your local convenience store, the petrol attendant — the list is long. How then is it possible that people, even children, suffer in silence? 

More than a year into the Covid-19 pandemic, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group says it receives more than 2 200 distress calls a day. Before the pandemic, it received 600 calls. 

According to World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics on suicide, based on data from 2019 (pre-pandemic), suicide is among the three leading causes of death among people aged 15 to 44. In fact, 55% of all suicide deaths are among people between those ages.

But most concerning is the WHO’s finding that rates among young people have been increasing to such an extent that they are now the group at the highest risk in a third of the world’s countries.

What happened to Guns N’ Roses’ Sweet Child O’ Mine

“Where everything was as fresh as the bright blue sky … 

She’s got eyes of the bluest skies 

As if they thought of rain

I’d hate to look into those eyes and see an ounce of pain.” 

In what place do our children find themselves when those younger than 13 years old decide to take their own lives?

According to the WHO report, suicide results from many “complex sociocultural factors, and is more likely to occur during periods of socioeconomic, family and individual crisis”. 

World Suicide Prevention Day falls on 10 September. This year the theme was “creating hope through action”.  

Let us take action by implementing preventive measures to address the problems plaguing young people. Let us help them develop coping skills. 

Look at your family, a friend, a person you brush shoulders with daily and ask a simple question: “How are you?” And then listen.

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