Educate yourself about suicide this Mental Health Awareness Month

Posted on October 25, 2019

Mental Health Awareness is in a transformational stage, some people are more accepting and aware of the benefits of addressing mental wellbeing, while others are still resistant due to the stigma attached to mental health.

This change is also distressing for individuals who want to seek assistance but are afraid of the stigma attached to it. Very often, distressed individuals want to ensure the confidentiality and anonymity of their sessions due to fear of judgment. If they feel people will judge their performance based on their mental health – and disadvantage them – they prefer to keep quiet. Silence is detrimental to one’s mental health.

Suicide is a help-seeking behaviour. It means that the person feels they have no purpose in life, life has no meaning, they feel lonely, abandoned, helpless and hopeless. It feels as though they are sucked into a dark abyss and it is difficult to see the light. This inner emotional turmoil is overwhelming and takes over rational and logical thinking and behaviour, says Nalinee Rughoo, Clinical Psychologist at EWP@UP.

With the ever-increasing demands, unfavourable work or home conditions, financial pressures, traumatic events, social exclusion and ill-health, stress levels are at an all-time high. Abongile Mcoteli, Social Worker at EWP@UP, emphasises that the effects of these can impact negatively on our personal, family and or work life. A negative workplace environment can lead to psychological difficulties such as depression, anxiety and burnout – and in some cases – suicide. On the other hand a positive and supportive work environment is conducive to psychological wellbeing.  

Mafondo Mohaule-Mboweni, Social Worker at EWP@UP, mentions that at times people set themselves high standards or have high expectations. When they do not accomplish them, they see themselves as failures, which leads to suicide. This is common, especially among the educated. Poor coping mechanisms also contribute as people see no way out but to commit suicide.

According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) in South Africa there are 23 suicides a day, and 230 serious suicide attempts. Suicide is the act of purposely ending one’s life. Every death is a tragedy for family, friends and colleagues, and can result in a variety of conflicting and painful emotions.


Talking about suicide does not provoke the act of suicide, it often reduces the anxiety and helps people feel heard and understood. 

Ayesha Malagas, Social Worker at EWP@UP says that clients often appear as normal, happy-go-lucky individuals when they have made up their minds to follow through with suicide. Therapists often see people when it is too late, early detection therefore allows for early intervention. 

Anine van Zyl-Graser, Counselling Psychologist at EWP@UP highlights the following early warning signs of suicidal behaviour:

  • Saying things like “no one will miss me when I am gone, people will be better off when I am gone”
  • A sudden change in behaviour
  • Experiencing a sudden change in mood
  • Suddenly withdrawing from social contact
  • Self-criticism
  • Loss of interest in self-care
  • Threatening to kill oneself
  • Giving away valued possessions
  • Making of a Will or getting affairs in order
  • Suddenly visiting or writing letters to loved ones
  • Buying instruments of suicide
  • Writing a suicide note
  • Hopelessness is a strong predictor of suicide 


  • Those who have previously attempted suicide
  • Those with a family history of suicide
  • Exposure to another person’s suicide
  • Those who suffer from severe emotional distress, mood disorder (depression or bipolar disorder) or an anxiety disorder
  • Those who have an alcohol/drug problem
  • Those who are socially isolated
  • Those who recently suffered a loss
  • Those suffering from chronic pain
  • Those who have been exposed to violence/abuse


If you know anyone who might be struggling with emotional distress, or mentions suicide or self-harm, take them seriously. Seek professional help.


  • Don’t ask why. This encourages defensiveness
  • Don’t act shocked. This will put distance between you.
  • Don’t lecture on the value of life.
  • Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support. Offer hope that alternatives are available, encourage them to speak to someone, and offer to accompany them to an appointment. 

EWP@UP offers confidential mental health support services and we are only a phone call, email or visit away:

Call 012 420 4193/ 4443

We are also available via Email [email protected]

Visit 10 Roper Street near the Prospect Street Entrance (opposite the mirage aircraft) – available for walk-ins and per scheduled appointments

Afterhours UP Care Line: 080 074 7747 or Dr Rina Buys, Head EWP@UP on 0829083688

Information obtained from the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) and the World Health Organisation (WHO)

- Author EWP@UP

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