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WITH one person taking their life every 40 seconds worldwide, this translates to close to 800 000 people who die by suicide every year.

Furthermore, for each suicide, there are more than 20 suicide attempts. This is according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Today being the first day of Mental Health Awareness Month in South Africa, we should perhaps take a moment to show empathy to friends, family members and colleagues suffering from bouts of depression and other mental health disorders that could push them to take their lives.

The focus for this year’s World Mental Health Day, observed on October 10, will be on suicide, themed “working together to prevent suicide”.

It’s we who are closest to sufferers who could help stop at least one person from taking their lives. Instead of stigmatising their disorders and labelling them attention seekers, we could offer a listening ear without judging.

The first step could be to educate ourselves so we are able to spot warning signs like hopelessness, rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge, acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities seemingly without thinking, feeling trapped like there’s no way out, increased alcohol or drug use, withdrawing from friends, family and society; anxiety, agitation, inability to sleep or sleeping all the time, as well as dramatic mood changes.

According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag), we should be concerned about depressed people if at least five of the symptoms have been present nearly every day for at least two weeks.

With the current state of our economy and many companies restructuring so they can stay afloat, many people are on the brink of losing jobs and are therefore anxious about prospects of a gloomy future where they wouldn’t be able to maintain their livelihoods, let alone put bread on the table for their children.

Year-end university and matric exams are also about to start and many young people are faced with the task of proving to their parents that they didn’t flush their money down the drain. The pressure is even higher on matriculants whose final results will confirm their place in institutions of higher learning for next year.

Lend a listening ear. Let our actions show we care. If all fails, let us call organisations like Sadag Suicide Crisis Line (0800 567 567) for intervention.