There is always an alternative to suicide, although for individuals struggling with depression or feelings of hopelessness and despair it may seem that there is no other way out. Often people may not reach out for help because they feel afraid, they may feel judged, or they may not know how to access help and care.

“For each loss of life to suicide, there are estimated to be 20 attempted suicides and even more people with thoughts or ideas of suicide,” says Megan Hosking, crisis line and marketing manager of Netcare Akeso mental health facilities.

“To put the scale of this mental health burden into perspective, the World Health Organization [WHO] estimates that 703 000 individuals around the world die by suicide each year. This is one life cut short approximately every 40 seconds, and untold pain for families who are often left with many questions.”

“The contributing factors to suicidal thoughts and behaviors are numerous and include mental health disorders, other illnesses, substance misuse, loss, the experience of trauma, and psychosocial problems. Sadly, many people who are experiencing these, or feelings of hopelessness and despair, will not reach out in time,” she says.

While people who are suicidal may not always reveal their inner pain or intentions in a way that is recognizable to others, there are several common warning signs that should be taken seriously, Hosking notes. Check-in with your own mental health and that of your loved ones, and look out for any of these warning signs:

  • Talking or thinking about death, harming or killing themselves/yourself
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness and having no hope for the future
  • Expressing being a “burden” to others
  • Seeking out things that may be harmful, such as drugs or weapons
  • Saying goodbye, or giving away possessions that they value
  • Increased isolation from family members and friends
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • A sudden sense of calm – this could indicate the person has a plan for suicide and has made ’peace’ with their situation
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“All suicide threats or indications should be taken seriously, and the necessary support can help keep the person safe. There is no shame in seeking assistance and it is always better to act if a person’s life could be in danger,” says Hosking.

“If you are feeling suicidal or having thoughts of harming yourself, or if you need advice for assisting a loved one, Netcare Akeso offers a 24-hour crisis line on 0861 435 787. Trained counselors are available to talk to without judgment and can guide you on the various options for assistance, whether for yourself or for a loved one.”

In addition, the South African Anxiety and Depression Group (SADAG) also provides a 24-hour suicide crisis help at 0800 567 567.

“Remember, you are not alone, and there is always another way.”