The Psychological Society of South Africa (PsySSA) joins the International Association for Suicide Prevention as, around the world, nations observe World Suicide Prevention Day on 10th September.
Worldwide in 2019, more than 700 000 people died from suicide (WHO, 2021) and one in every 100 deaths globally results from suicide (WHO, 2021; International Association for Suicide Prevention, 2021). For each suicide, there are many more individuals who attempt suicide, making it a significant public health concern.
Many people with suicidal thoughts experience a heightened sense of isolation; they may be overwhelmed with despair and a sense of hopelessness, feeling trapped and burdensome to loved ones, friends and colleagues. For most people, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to enormous personal and socio-economic hardship, intensifying feelings of isolation, and resulting in higher rates of depression and anxiety which have been associated with suicidal thoughts and behaviour.
Despite efforts to reduce stigma relating to mental illness and suicide, this remains a serious impediment to help-seeking. However, suicides are preventable. By breaking negative perceptions and heeding the International Association for Suicide Prevention call to “create hope through action”, we can collectively instill hope and demonstrate that we care and want to help people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts and other mental health related concerns through compassion and unconditional positive regard. Through sharing a resource or contact number with someone in need; through taking the time to assist that person to access mental health services, we can make a difference. By speaking openly about mental health concerns with our children, partners, parents and in our communities, we will make a difference.
PsySSA calls upon individuals, communities, civic organisations and government to heed this call and to work tirelessly to ensure that we strengthen efforts to prevent suicide and dispel the stigma relating to mental illness. We need to ensure access to mental health services at every level of care. Considering that risk factors for suicide include, amongst others, relationship problems, unemployment and financial hardship, an inter-sectoral approach is needed to mitigate these risks and provide assistance to those in need of mental health care. Suicide prevention efforts must be prioritized in the public health agenda through comprehensive inter-sectoral suicide prevention strategies.
On World Suicide Prevention Day, and every day, we remember those who have lost their lives to suicide, as well as those bereaved by suicide. We affirm our commitment to advocate for rights and services for people with mental health concerns. We also call on government to increase mental health services and enhance access to this much needed resource.
Ms Anne Kramers-Olen – PsySSA Executive Member
International Association for Suicide Prevention. (2021, n.d.). International Association for Suicide Prevention. https://www.iasp.info/wspd2021/
World Health Organization. (2021. June, 17). One in 100 deaths is by suicide. https://www.who.int/news/item/17-06-2021-one-in-100-deaths-is-by-suicide