A PRIVATE psychiatric clinic has opened its doors right next to the Wits education campus. Akeso clinic in Parktown completed its second phase in June and can accommodate roughly 100 patients.

Psychiatric problems can lead to suicide and this has also affected the Wits community this year. Wits Vuvuzela reported on three separate suicides involving two students and a lecturer.

Dr Shereen Kajee, an Akeso clinic psychiatrist, said the hospital was established because psychiatric patients have different needs to other patients. It allows for voluntary check-in as well as for patients to be checked in by their families.

A Wits student who is an out-patient at Akeso and wanted to remain anonymous has battled with psychiatric problems for three years. “My experience in normal hospitals has been very unpleasant. People judge you and I’ve even been told to just snap out of it,” she said.

In international headlines this week, Tony Scott, a Hollywood director, committed suicide on August 19. Scott jumped off a bridge at Los Angeles harbour. He is known for directing Top Gun and Beverley Hill Cops II.

Kajee also said most people who commit suicide are suffering from depression but “some do it impulsively as a way of getting attention and unfortunately don’t survive”.

The anonymous student said mental health issues are not widely spoken about and remain taboo. “The clinic is better for me, I’m more comfortable here,” she said.

According to a study by the University of Cape Town (UCT), released last year, young adults between 19 and 24 years of age are more prone to depression and at risk of suicide. Some of the issues that lead to suicide are related to academic problems, high levels of stress and mental health problems.

The UCT study says South Africa has the eighth highest rate of suicide in the world. Each year approximately between 6 000 and 8 000 people commit suicide, making suicide the third highest cause of unnatural death in the country, after murder and “unintentional causes”.

nandi@witsvuvuzela.com