Around 12% of southern African university students experience symptoms of depression.

A staggering 23 suicides per day or close to 8 000 per annum is the rate of suicide in South Africa. This is according to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), a non-profit organisation that provides counselling and other services to the general public.

The organisation says that about 12% of all southern African university students experience anything from moderate to severe symptoms of depression. “Following national and international trends there are more cases of depression being reported. Some are related to social, psychological, physical and other stressors,” says Toinette Bradley, team leader at the Wits Counselling Careers Development Unit (CCDU).

According to Bradley, “Depression and suicide are not terms that can be used interchangeably, some can be depressed but not suicidal, however, depression can be a risk factor for suicide.”

Talking or joking about suicide, self-criticism, risk-taking behaviour and a loss of interest in one’s appearance can all be warning signs that a person is vulnerable to attempting suicide.

When dealing with someone showing these signs, CCDU advises that talking openly and matter-of-factly about suicide can help in many ways. According to their website, speaking openly with suicidal people makes them feel less alone, less isolated and more cared for and understood.

Bradley says CCDU offers individual psychotherapy as well as referrals to psychiatric services for medical intervention.

Wits offers a toll-free crisis line for anyone struggling to cope with day-to-day life. The line, 0800 111 331,  is open 24/7.

FEATURED IMAGE: Help is on hand for students who express depression and suicidal thoughts. Photo: File. 

INFOGRAPHIC: Gemma Gatticchi