Jan 2008

There is help for depression

Mental health

The year 2008 is upon us and not everyone is looking forward to what lies ahead for them. 

For many people the beginning of the year is a time of sadness and hopelessness. Some of them are unemployed or are learners who have failed at school. For these people the future appears to offer no hope of success to such an extent that taking their own lives seems to be the only solution.


It is for this reason that government has put in place the mental health awareness programme. 

Mental illness is often associated with crazy people who make no sense when talking or run amok in the streets. But mentally ill people do not necessarily behave so strangely. Mental illness also includes people who are deeply depressed. At times they fail to see the difference between right and wrong and don’t believe their lives will ever get better. 

The South African Youth Risk Behaviour Survey done in 2002, showed that suicide is more common among young people. It showed that many young people between 20 and 34 years old commit suicide.

At risk

People who are at risk of committing suicide include those who drink alcohol heavily; drug users; people who face stressful situations like poverty, illness, death of loved ones; and those who see themselves as failures. 

For teenagers, things like failing matric, an unhappy family due to abuse and divorce, peer pressure and serious illness are among the causes of depression that could lead to suicide. 

Apart from government’s programmes, other organisations are helping government to deal with the problem of suicide. The South African Depression and Anxiety Support Group is one such organisation. The organisation says people who are feeling depressed should not bear the problem alone because there are trained people who are ready to help them.

Find help

Suicides can be prevented and depression and suicidal feelings can be managed with the proper treatment and counselling. 

Finding out what the causes of depression are and getting help, is a starting point in the healing process. If you are depressed and have suicidal thoughts that last for a period of two weeks or more, you must get help. You can start by talking to friends, relatives, teachers or elders from your religion or community about your problems. You can also contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Support Group. Their offices are open from 8am to 8pm seven days a week, even on public holidays.

- Muzi Mkhwanazi

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