Over 700 000 citizens of the world die by suicide each year, according to the World Health Organisation. File photo: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)
Over 700 000 citizens of the world die by suicide each year, according to the World Health Organisation. File photo: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

World Suicide Prevention Day: Health experts call to destigmatise talk of suicide

By Shakirah Thebus Time of article published Sep 10, 2021

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Cape Town - This World Suicide Prevention Day, health experts are making a firm, clarion call to destigmatise talking about suicide to prevent deaths and the isolation of those with suicidal thoughts.

Globally, the day is observed on September 10 every year to promote awareness and prevent suicides from taking place.

Over 700 000 citizens of the world die by suicide each year, according to the World Health Organisation, and with every suicide there are even more attempted suicides.

Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for people aged 15-19 years old, with 77% of suicides occurring in low- to middle-income countries.

Some of the more common ways used to commit suicide were the ingestion of pesticide, hanging and firearms.

Clinical social worker and South African Association for Social Workers in Private Practice member Sheila Selfe said helplines are seeing a surge in calls. Selfe said suicide is an ongoing cause of death with many factors at play.

“Some of the risk factors for this include isolation, higher levels of depression, loss of livelihoods, financial worries and the loss of loved ones (often under very difficult circumstances). During the pandemic, people with existing mental health conditions have been at increased risk with their coping mechanisms sometimes being overwhelmed,” said Selfe.

Selfe stressed the importance of engaging with a person at risk of taking their life.

Stellenbosch University Psychology Department associate professor Jason Bantjes said there is much more attention being given to suicide and suicide prevention, which has bought the conversation about suicide more into the public eye.

“This has also led to a decrease in stigma and even in some countries to the de-criminalisation of suicide. However, there are still some myths about suicide that persist, which make suicide prevention difficult. At their worst, these myths maintain taboos and continue to stigmatise people who engage in suicidal behaviour.”

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