Recently, celebrities have made headlines for tragic suicides. Some have been found dead in hotel rooms or in their homes with little or no explanation.
A few weeks ago, news broke that Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington had committed suicide. Over the years he had reportedly had drug and alcohol issues.
Bennington follows a number of high-profile names whose deaths could have been by their own hand.
In South Africa, Yizo Yizo actor Jabu Christopher Kubheka hung himself last month in his home in Pretoria.
TV personality Lalla Hirayama took to social media recently to speak openly about her depression, suicidal thoughts and anxiety.
“Depression has been a big part of my life. But that’s OK. Before I was diagnosed, I thought I was possessed. Suicide was a serious thought. Don’t suffer in silence because of other people’s ignorance” said Hirayama.
She added that “speaking about mental health issues is important. Spreading awareness and destroying the stigma it carries could help save lives”.
Dr Mvuyiso Talatala, a board member of the Psychiatry Management Group, said: “Mental illness is a risk factor for suicide. Illnesses such as depression have suicide as one of their symptoms.
“Patients with schizophrenia may hear voices commanding them to commit suicide. At times it could be an impulsive act during a period of acute distress.”
But he added that people having suicidal thoughts can be treated. “The aim is to manage the underlying illness that is presenting with suicide. This includes psychotherapy and necessary medications.
“Suicidal patients must be sent to the nearest health professional for acute containment and management of the risk of suicide. A supportive family environment is very useful.”
Talatala said while men attempt suicide less than women, men are more likely to be successful in their attempts than women. “This is because men are likely to attempt suicide with methods that are more fatal or violent.”
Cassey Chambers, South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) operations director, said men are five times more likely to commit suicide than females.
“Men don’t speak about their feelings till it is too late.”
Talatala said men and women deal with stress and other health issues differently, probably due to socialisation.
Women are more likely to seek help early when they have a problem. Men are more likely to bottle issues up or use alcohol to cope.
He advises family members to look out for signs of suicide attempts attentively.
“A person very convinced that he/she needs to die may hide any sign that could alert others to their intentions. The presence of mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia is a risk factor for suicide. When a patient is relapsing in these illnesses there is an added risk.
“ A history of suicide attemptsin the past puts one at risk for suicide and so is a history of a family member who once attempted or committed suicide.”
Chambers says it is important to seek professional help as soon as possible. “Depression is a real medical illness that needs real treatment. If you know someone who may be thinking or preparing to hurt themselves or even suicide, it is important that you get them to a mental health professional as soon as possible.
“About 75% of people who commit suicide tell someone first. So if you identify the warning signs, get them help and you could potentially save a life,” she said.