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Holiday seasons, Sunday evenings and Monday mornings are among the peak times that suicides occur advises internationally recognised suicidologist, Professor Lourens Schlebusch.

In the spirit of Mental Health Awareness Month (July) we consulted with Schlebusch for advice on how best to support a loved one or friend who is suicidal.

“There is research to show that suicides peak at certain times. There are peak seasons but generally it’s towards the end of the year in South Africa,” said Schlebusch.

He said usually towards the end of the year suicidal behavior is linked to examination stress and pressure. “People getting into or out of university. Or if they’ve finished school and if their marks are not good, or even if their marks are good, but they may be unable to secure enough university points,” said Schlebusch.

He said at the beginning of the year, it’s usually linked to the high employment rate and associated economic pressures.

“We also see a peak around seasons like Christmas because then you are reminded of the happiness of a lot of people around you and you’re reminded of your sense of hopelessness. Around this time people often relive past experiences, they often think about previous Christmases and are reminded of that and that in itself can cause problems,” said Schlebusch.

Any celebrations or special days, like a birthday, or the anniversary of the death of a loved one, can also be reminders that trigger suicidal feelings.

“There are also peak periods in the week. It normally peaks over the weekends; Sunday evening, Monday mornings. We haven’t quite worked out whether it’s because it is the end of the week where people feel they’ve had enough or the start of the week where they feel like they have to face the same problems again,” he said.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Provide some sought of communication line. Be someone who a suicidal person can  communicate their distressed feelings with. When people are suicidal it is not always the attraction of death, the reason they want to do it is to escape an unbearable psychological pain. If you can give them the opportunity to discuss the problems or the pain they have, you can at least minimise the risk of suicide.
  • Remember, the link between thinking about suicide or threatening suicide and doing it, is sometimes a sense of hopelessness. Hopeless is defined as negative expectancies of the future. So, where you feel that your situation is so hopeless that there is no way out and the only solution that you may see is destroy yourself and take your own life. So, establish how intense the sense of hopelessness is in a person.
  • When people are depressed or alone and are not responding to your input, consider taking them to a professional person, alert to the fact that it could be a clinical condition.

Trusted helplines include: Suicide Crisis Line: 0800 567 567, SADAG Mental Health Line: 011 234 4837 and Lifeline’s Counselling Number: 0861 322 322

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