‘Take a minute, save a life’
One is one too many.
These words were reiterated on Monday night, as concerned members of the community congregated in the D’Almeida Civic Hall to discuss the alarming rise in suicide among the youth, one of the latest victims in Mossel Bay being only 11 years old.
Because of this trend, an action committee responsible for Monday’s meeting with the community was established.
Lenise Hendricks, who led the proceedings, herself having lost family members through suicide, emphasised the need to create awareness and be preventative. She also shared that 10 September is World Suicide Prevention Day, with September generally being devoted to this cause worldwide.
Unika Palmer, who after several failed suicide attempts now acts as a champion for suicide prevention, shared her story. Palmer said suicide was not a sudden decision. “It is the result of unresolved hurt. It comes over a long period of time. In my case, I felt that people heard what I was saying, but they didn’t hear me.”
She said a suicide threat should never be taken lightly. “If someone says they want to commit suicide to you, and you don’t act and they take that step, their blood is on your hands,” Palmer said. What she found particularly lacking in her case, was someone she could trust enough to talk to. She admonished people for being too judgmental.
She said that looking back, she is glad her attempts failed. “I would have missed too much. Seeing my children grow up, being with my family.”
A psychologist with the Western Cape Education Department, Eden Central Karoo, Gaynor Janeke shared the perspective that those present get to hear of the successful suicide attempts, while the even more alarming reality was that her department still dealt with the many cases that were unsuccessful, where serious psychological and emotional issues persisted.
“The problem seems to be spiralling out of control. At the WCED, we never assume when it comes to a suicide threat. We act immediately.”
Janeke said the anti-bullying campaign run in schools in the region during August was very successful. “It is heart wrenching though, that we are still responding to letters from learners.” Janeke said that during the campaign, learners had the opportunity to voice their concerns and many said they considered suicide as a solution to escape bullying at school.
She also mentioned the reality of many children being diagnosed with depression and the role that drug abuse played, sometimes as a “form of self-medication just to feel better”.
Janeke concluded that a multi-disciplinary approach was required to properly address the hopelessness among the youth that leds to suicide.
Serious issues, serious action
On his part, Pastor Neil Williams, who lost a brother to suicide, also urged those present to spare their judgment of suicide victims, as it sorely affects the family members left behind.
Pastor Williams’ brother succeeded at his seventh attempt to commit suicide in a communal cell in the George Correctional Centre.
“If you can save one life, by noticing the signs, by listening or offering a shoulder to cry on, then you are the biggest hero ever. Moreover, the person whose life you save, will never forget you.”
Deputy commander of the Da Gamaskop Police Cluster, Col Una Saayman, said that since January, more than 20 cases of suicide had been reported at the 11 stations in the cluster from Swellendam to Great Brak River. This includes both children and adults.
“Bear in mind that the police handle suicide as a typical murder scene. Therefore, it is important to not tamper with the deceased or any other items on the scene, since this affects the investigation to follow.”
Morné Pietersen, station manager at Eden FM, said this serious issue required serious action, to which the radio station committed itself wholly. “We want to tell the stories and help with prevention, so we can change the statistics.
In closing, Lenise Hendricks called upon those present to take the message further. “Take a minute, change a life. It is time to give our children a vision. We don’t raise them for merely good school results and a matric farewell. We need to give them a vision.”
For more information regarding the antisuicide action committee, contact the chair, Dexter Brinkhuis (062 441 3720) or WhatsApp (+971 50 871 2431). Join Anti-Suicide Mossel Bay on facebook for updates, encouragement and tips.
Unika Palmer shared her story of failed suicide attempts boldly. She now champions prevention via a facebook page, Anti-Suicide Mossel Bay.
Lenise Hendricks urged the community to raise children with a vision.