Pretoria - The number of suicide cases in Gauteng has soared by a devastating 90% increase from 695 cases to 1 325 cases during the 2019/2020 financial year.
This is according to Gauteng MEC for Community Safety Faith Mazibuko, who revealed that the loss of income during the Covid-19 pandemic was among the contributing factors that led to people ending their lives.
Mazibuko informed MPs that these factors also included depression, financial difficulties, death of family members and domestic violence.
Gauteng MEC for Social Development Morakane Mosupyoe said the department had social workers who provided a broad range of social, emotional, behavioural, school and family interventions, using tried and tested methods in communities and schools.
These include prevention and awareness programmes that mostly focus on building the resilience of communities, learners and youth, such as social behaviour change programmes, parenting programmes, and Ke Moja drug prevention programmes.
“Further to this, the department provides psychosocial support services, screening, referrals and management of cases of affected learners and their families, while the provision of therapeutic interventions includes individual therapy for those with emotional and behavioural problems, individual counselling bereavement support, and referrals for specialised services and support, group therapy, trauma debriefing and family therapy,” she said.
The department said that in addition it provided crises interventions and rapid responses to deal with incidents such as learner deaths, child protection, abuse and neglect, trauma debriefing, bereavement, violence, depression and attempted suicide.
Stakeholders, among them political parties and non-governmental organisations, said it was sad to imagine the pain vulnerable individuals had been going through to reach such dark points in their lives.
“Even survivors of suicide have disclosed that it is never an easy decision, and mostly one taken out of desperation to release themselves from the pain they have no way of eradicating,” the DA said in reaction to the report. They said what was even further disturbing was that the Gauteng Department of Social Development seemed to have no specific programmes that directly tackled the increase in suicide rates.
They called on the department to embark on a more aggressive awareness campaign of what counselling and support services were available to those who were suffering.
Said the DA: “When one is suffering through depression, it takes a profound amount of effort to try to pull themselves out, and therefore it should not require so much effort to access the help they deserve.
“Depression is the silent pandemic that has been ignored for far too long. If we are wanting to be a more caring and sympathetic society, we need to acknowledge and confront this pandemic head on."