Pretoria - The South African Depression And Anxiety Group (SADAG) has expressed doubt over the accuracy of the reported 90 percent rise in suicide figures in Gauteng province, adding that the statistics from the provincial departments are likely a far cry from the reality.
“The reported stats do seem low, even though they have increased by 90 percent. We really have to look at how these figures are being recorded and sourced from. 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,” SADAG operations director Cassey Chambers told Independent Media.
“Also, for every one suicide, there are 20 attempted suicides, so the figure is much higher for people who feel suicidal or have thoughts of suicide or ending their life.”
Currently, Chambers said SADAG is receiving over 2 500 calls per day, and one in every five calls are “suicide calls”.
“If our call volumes have increased so much since before Covid-19, then it is understandable that the suicide rates would increase too,” she said.
“SADAG has seen an increase in the number of calls each month since the start of lockdown. Our call volumes went from 600 per day, pre-Covid-19, to 1 200 per day, from the first day of lockdown.”
Twenty months later, Chambers said SADAG is now receiving over 2 500 calls per day, and hundreds more emails, SMSes, WhatsApp and social media messages from people reaching out for help.
“We have kept a close eye on the stats and call volumes each day and month, and with each spike, we do anticipate even more calls to our help lines, 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,” said Chambers.
“Mental health needs to be prioritised, especially suicide. Mental health has been deemed the second pandemic across the globe to come out of Covid-19 – and we are seeing that a reality for so many people each day in South Africa.”
Chambers said more needs to be done to make sure we can respond to the mental health crisis on a daily basis.
“We need more hospital beds, we need more access to mental health services in communities, and we need more mental health professionals to help people who are struggling with mental health issues,” she said.
“We need government – both nationally and provincially – to invest more into our mental health system.”
SADAG said it is “surprised” to hear of the statistics released from the Gauteng department of social development.
“We are not sure where the stats are from or how they are being recorded, and also to understand how these would differ to the figures from the department of health,” said Chambers.
“It has always been difficult to get concrete stats or figures related to mental health and suicide in South Africa. So we will be reaching out to the department of social development for more information around those figures and ways to work closer together.”
Reports of the massive rise of suicide cases in Gauteng, reported to have soared by a devastating 90 percent increase from 695 cases to 1 325 cases during the 2019/20 financial year, have sent shock waves, but mental health experts and cultural experts believe there is help available for the distressed.
Cape Town-based clinical psychologist Dain Peters said that in times of anxiety and distress during the Covid-19 pandemic, one needs to do a proper assessment of the situation and make changes, including to their financial standing.