Johannesburg - For quite some time Muzi Makame had been telling his family and a friend, Tebogo Mokeri, just how difficult it was for him to cope without a job as a father.
With three children, the 32-year-old man was always stressed about the fact that he did not have enough money to take care of them the way he wanted to, and that his partner was not spending their social grant money on the children.
In addition to that, Mokeri said, Makame had often complained about his partner cheating on him and that he did not know what to do.
This past Saturday was the end. Makame could not take it any more and he ended his life.
His three children discovered him dead in a bath in their home in Claremont, Joburg.
So convinced that death was the only way out, Makame had devised a suicide that could not fail. Makame’s family and Mokeri are still shocked at the way he died. But according to Professor Lourens Schlebusch, an international expert on suicide, there is a link between economic difficulties, depression and suicide.
Schlebusch is the author of the book Suicidal Behaviour in South Africa. He said most suicides were committed by men, while China was the only country where the majority of people committing suicide were women. The reason for this was not known.
Schlebusch said while women tended to attempt suicide to a marked degree, men were more successful as they used more violent methods.
“In our research, interpersonal relationships can also be a trigger, but women can cope better with that than men as they tend to seek help while men fall apart.
“The biggest contributor to male suicide worldwide is the adage ‘cowboys don’t cry’.
“Men see themselves as having to be strong leaders, they are supposed to be strong, hence they subscribe to that adage and think it might be weak to admit to having a problem.”
Suicides have gone up by 40 percent in Greece because of the economic meltdown.
And last week figures were released that unemployment in South Africa had gone up.
People are pressured to make a living and even those who are well educated are battling to get a job.
“The link here is that people may have such feelings of hopelessness, can’t see a way out and think that life is not worth living,” he said.
While this could have happened to Makame, his family is convinced that things were looking up for him. He had recently repaired broken windows in the neighbourhood and had taken to it seriously.
Even his sister said things had been looking up for him. While he was constantly worried about not making enough to provide for his children, they were confident that he would stick with repairing windows.
On Saturday, he woke up and did the laundry.
He even bought two beers to drink while doing the laundry. His partner arrived home and later left him with the children. No one knows what happened later because when Mokeri arrived at the flat after getting the call, the laundry was not finished and the beers were still there.
Mokeri believes that the suicide was a decision his friend made on the spur of the moment. Schlebusch disagrees.
“Suicide is not something that people just wake up one day and do. The person has been thinking about it for a long time. When someone has feelings of hopelessness and says things like ‘I don’t see a way out’, don’t ignore them and say ‘stop being silly’ or ‘pull yourself up’.
“Recognise that someone who says those things could be depressed and need help. The sad thing is that in South Africa the ages of people committing suicide are dropping, they are becoming younger.
“That man (Makame) was in the prime of his life, however, hopelessness was a problem and he could not see a way out.”
The professor said it was important for people to be educated about warning signs. If a person is depressed, seek help for them.
A sudden change in lifestyle, a loss of interest in things the person used to enjoy and being withdrawn, were some of the tell-tale signs of someone who may be battling with depression.
The South African Depression and Anxiety Group’s Suicide Crisis Line can be contacted at 0800 567 567 or send an SMS to 31393.