Cape Town – A recent South African Depression and Anxiety Group’s (Sadag) online survey has revealed that 1 in 10 people have contemplated suicide because of the impact of the ongoing power cuts.
Sadag sent the survey to over 30 000 members of the Sadag community with a total of 1 836 respondents reflecting on the ways that load shedding impacted their daily lives, their fears, their feelings and how they were managing to cope in this crisis.
The project led by Dr Bronwyn Dworzanowski-Venter, who is a senior research associate at the faculty of humanities at the University of Johannesburg, looked at the specific pressure points that could lead to negative psychological and practical outcomes.
Feelings of helplessness were often reported, with one respondent sharing that load shedding “has made me feel that I cease to exist, basically. My life feels it's at a standstill – What can I do? What must I do? I hate the feeling of pressure it puts on me…”.
It was revealed that 1 in 10 have contemplated suicide or had thoughts of suicide, with one respondent saying: “I just sat in the dark and cried myself to sleep and I am someone who is dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts.”
Alongside helplessness, employed survey respondents were expected to deliver work, despite outages, adding high levels of performance anxiety and work-related stress to heavy financial demands caused by the secondary impacts of load shedding such as food spoilage and appliance breakages.
“The entire sample seemed psychologically impacted in one form or another. It is not surprising, then, that 4 in 10 people reported depression, and 62% of people struggled with anxiety and panic, and some respondents reported an exacerbation of physical and psychological challenges,” read the report.
The survey showed that 96% feared that load shedding would cause long-term damage to the South African economy, thus leaving many South Africans in a worse state than before.
“I am more prone to things that I never was before such as road rage, losing my temper,” one respondent said.
“We may not know when the power will return, or how to fix damage to the electrical, communications and water infrastructure, but we can and should build our own psychological insulation infrastructure and frame the crisis on our own terms,” said Dworzanowski-Venter.
Sadag said that it was now better enabled to implement additional support and coping strategies and reminded respondents that they were not alone. It said many survey participants opted to reach out by leaving their contact number at the end of the survey, asking for a counsellor to call them.
Anyone needing help from Sadag can call one of the toll-free helplines at 0800 567 567, 0800 456 789 or 0800 12 13 14 (24 hours), or SMS 31393, or chat to a counsellor on WhatsApp Chatline at 076 882 2775 (8am to 5pm), or fill in a contact form on the website www.sadag.org.