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PROJECT: MALE SUICIDES IN SOUTH AFRICA

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According to a recent news article, a psychologist noted that among the patients he encountered on the verge of suicide in 2023, "no less than 70% are males".


This alarming trend of male suicides is on the rise in South Africa, exposing the country's forced patriarchy where men are expected to be strong and women vulnerable. Shockingly, South Africa ranks 10th on the list of countries with the highest number of suicides, with 13,774 suicides reported in 2022, of which 10,861 were men. Men are five times more likely to die from suicide than women, and the main factors contributing to suicide among men are unemployment, childhood trauma, and relationship issues. Moreover, financial difficulties, where a man is unable to provide for his family, also stood out as one of the reasons for male suicides. Sexual orientation issues, illness (mental and physical), and drug abuse were among the other reasons for suicide.


This trend can be attributed to a combination of social, cultural, and economic factors that disproportionately affect men in South African society. It is high time that we address this issue head-on and take steps towards ensuring that men's mental health is given the attention and care it deserves.

 

The stigma surrounding mental health:

  • There is a pervasive stigma surrounding mental health issues in many communities in South Africa.

  • Men, in particular, may feel pressured to adhere to traditional notions of masculinity that discourage seeking help for mental health problems.

  • As a result, they may be less likely to seek support or treatment for issues such as depression or anxiety, which can contribute to a higher risk of suicide.

  • Where it is acceptable for women to ask for help, men are much less likely to admit they also need help.

  • Our society is focused on attending to vulnerable women, and with good reason, but we should not exclude help for men.


Socioeconomic stressors:

  • Economic challenges and unemployment are significant stressors in South Africa, particularly among men who may feel pressure to provide for their families.

  • High levels of unemployment and poverty can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair, increasing the risk of suicidal behaviour.


Violence and trauma:

  • South Africa has high levels of violence, including interpersonal violence, crime, and political conflict. 

  • Exposure to violence and trauma can have profound effects on mental health and increase the risk of suicide, especially among men who may be more likely to experience or witness violence.


Access to means:

  • The availability of means for suicide, such as firearms or pesticides, can contribute to higher rates of suicide among men.

  • Men are more likely to use lethal means when attempting suicide, which increases the likelihood of completed suicides.


Cultural factors:

  • Traditional gender roles and expectations may contribute to men feeling a sense of shame or failure if they cannot meet societal expectations.

  • This can exacerbate feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, increasing the risk of suicide.

 

RED FLAGS:

Recognising the warning signs or red flags of suicide in men is crucial for early intervention and prevention. While these signs can vary from person to person, some common red flags to watch for include:


Expressing hopelessness or worthlessness:

  • Men contemplating suicide may express feelings of despair, hopelessness, or a sense that life is not worth living.

  • They may vocalise thoughts like "I can't go on anymore" or "Things will never get better."


Withdrawal and isolation:

  • Social withdrawal or isolating oneself from friends, family, and social activities can be a sign of distress.

  • Men at risk of suicide may avoid contact with others and prefer to be alone.


Changes in behaviour or mood:

  • Noticeable changes in behaviour, mood swings, or extreme mood changes can indicate underlying emotional turmoil.

  • This may include sudden irritability, agitation, or expressions of anger.


Increased substance abuse:

  • Escalating alcohol or drug use can be a sign that someone is struggling to cope with emotional pain.

  • Substance abuse may serve as a way to numb feelings or escape reality temporarily.


Talking about death or suicide:

  • Men who frequently talk about death, dying, or suicide, even in a casual or joking manner, should be taken seriously.

  • They may express thoughts or fantasies about ending their own lives.


Giving away prized possessions:

  • Making arrangements to give away belongings or tie up loose ends can be a warning sign that someone is considering suicide.

  • This may include giving away valuable items, updating wills, or making unusual financial decisions.


Sudden calmness or peace:

  • Sometimes, individuals who have decided to end their lives may exhibit a sudden sense of calmness or peace.

  • This can be misleading, as it may indicate that they have already resolved to take action.


Preoccupation with death or dying:

  • Men who frequently engage in conversations or activities related to death, dying, or suicide may be signalling their distress.

  • This could include researching suicide methods or seeking out materials related to death.


Changes in sleep patterns or appetite:

  • Disrupted sleep patterns, insomnia, or changes in appetite can be physical manifestations of underlying mental health issues.

  • Men at risk of suicide may experience significant changes in their sleeping or eating habits.


Loss of interest in hobbies or activities:

  • A sudden loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities or hobbies can be a sign of depression or emotional distress.

  • Men who withdraw from activities they once found pleasurable may be struggling with their mental health.


 

It is important to remember that these warning signs are not always easy to recognise and may vary depending on individual circumstances. If you notice any of these red flags in yourself or someone else, it is crucial to take them seriously and seek help from a mental health professional or crisis hotline.

 

LIFELINE

Helpline: 0861 322 322


THE SOUTH AFRICAN DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY SUPPORT GROUP

Helpline: 0800 21 22 23 (8am to 8pm)

Helpline: 0800 12 13 14 (8pm to 8am)

SMS 31393


SUICIDE CRISES HELPLINE

Helpline: 0800 567 567


 

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