Suicide season strikes

Feeling blue

With the festive season fast approaching, it also heralds the start of a darker side to the end of the year, suicide season.

In Amanzimtoti there were two suicide-related events this week. A visiting businessman died after shooting himself in a Beach Road apartment on Tuesday morning, 8 November and on Monday, 7 November a woman attempted suicide by slashing her wrist on Toti promenade.

The SUN is also aware of another attempted suicide some three weeks ago, in which a 21-year-old tried to take his own life.

“Everyone deals with tough times, but some people have been dealt a tougher hand when it comes to life circumstances,” said Turning Point (Amanzimtoti Trauma Unit) centre manager, Loraine Odendaal.

“People are most driven when they view their current situation as being completely hopeless and feel as if they have no way to change things for the better.”

Common causes of suicide include mental illness (anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression or schizophrenia), traumatic experience (physical abuse, sexual abuse, trauma in war or post-traumatic stress disorder), bullying, personality disorders which make it difficult to function within society, borderline personality disorder, drug addiction or substance abuse, eating disorders, unemployment, social isolation or loneliness, relationship problems, genetics or family history, philosophical desire or existential crisis where life feels empty or meaningless, terminal illness, chronic pain, financial problems or prescription drugs.

“Suicides increase during the Christmas season, because there is a lot of increased stress during the holidays, be it financial, family or loneliness. Sometimes it is too much for one to handle and without help, can often lead to suicide,” said Odendaal.

Signs which might indicate someone is suicidal.

  • Behaviour: Alcohol or drug misuse, fighting and/or breaking the law, withdrawal from family and friends, quitting activities that were previously important, prior suicidal behaviour, self-harming, putting affairs in order for example, giving away possessions, writing a suicide note or goodbye letters to people, uncharacteristic risk-taking or recklessness, unexplained crying or emotional outbursts.
  • Physical changes: Major changes to sleeping patterns (too much or too little), loss of energy, loss of interest in personal hygiene or appearance, loss of interest in sex, sudden and extreme changes in eating habits (loss or increase of appetite), weight gain or loss or increase in minor illnesses.
  • Conversational signs: No future – “What’s the point? Things are never going to get any better”. Guilt – “It’s all my fault, I’m to blame”. Escape – “I can’t take this anymore”. Alone – “I’m on my own… no-one cares about me”. Damaged – “I’ve been irreparably damaged… I’ll never be the same again”. Helpless – “Nothing I do makes a bit of difference, it’s beyond my control”. Talking about suicide or death. Planning for suicide.
  • Feelings: Sadness, anger, shame, desperation, disconnection, hopelessness, worthlessness, powerlessness, loneliness or isolation.

“Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can be extremely difficult,” said Odendaal. “If you are unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask.
You might be worried that you may put the idea of suicide into the person’s head if you talk about it, but you cannot make a person suicidal by showing your concern.

By giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express their feelings, you can relieve them of feelings of isolation or pent-up negative feelings, and it may reduce the risk of a suicide attempt.”

How to start a conversation about suicide: I am worried about you because you do not seem to be yourself lately. I have noticed that you have been doing (state behaviour), is everything OK?

Questions you can ask: What can I do to help you? What supports have you called on so far? You can also say I want to help you and I am here for you when you want to talk.

“In many cases, the pain leading a person to feel suicidal can be overcome and reduced to the point where an individual is able to find pleasure and purpose in life again,” said Odendaal.

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, seek professional help and call Life Line on 086-132-2322 or Turning Point – Amanzimtoti on 031-903-7777.

Earl Baillache

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