Depression

Updated 23 June 2014

Warning signs of suicide

South Africa has a comparatively high suicide rate with 19 – 28 per 100 000 completed suicides per annum. We take a look at the danger signs of suicide.

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South Africa has a comparatively high suicide rate with 19 – 28 per 100 000 completed suicides per annum.

Depression often plays a role in suicide therefore it is important to know the symptoms of depression.

Many of us are concerned that we might not be able to recognise someone with suicidal tendencies. According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, the following are danger signals of suicide:


Previous suicide attempts:


Between 20 and 50 percent of people who kill themselves had previously attempted suicide. Those who have made serious suicide attempts are at a much higher risk for actually taking their lives.

Talking about death or suicide:

People who commit suicide often talk about it directly or indirectly. Be alert to such statements like, "My family would be better off without me." Sometime those contemplating suicide talk as if they are saying goodbye or going away.

Planning for suicide:

Suicidal individuals often arrange to put their affairs in order. They may give away articles they value, pay of debts or a mortgage on a house, or change a will.

Depression:

Although most depressed people are not suicidal, most suicidal people are depressed. Serious depression can be manifested in obvious sadness, but often it is expressed instead as a loss of pleasure or withdrawal from activities that had once been enjoyable.

Be particularly concerned about depressed persons if at least five of the following symptoms have been present nearly every day for at least two weeks:

  • Depressed mood, change in sleeping patterns
  • Change in appetite or weight
  • Speaking and/or moving with unusual speed or slowness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
  • Decrease in sexual drive
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness, self-reproach, or guilt
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, slowed thinking or indecisiveness
  • Thoughts of death, suicide, or wishes to be dead

Additional factors that point to an increased risk for suicide in depressed individuals are:

  • Extreme anxiety, agitation, or enraged behaviour
  • Excessive drug and/or alcohol use or abuse
  • History of physical or emotional illness or withdrawal from crowds
  • Feelings of hopelessness or desperation

(Information from the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, updated by Health24 - March 2014)

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Michael Simpson has been a senior psychiatric academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries, having worked at London University in the UK; McMaster University in Canada; Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.; and the University of Natal in South Africa.
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