Hanging takes over from guns in SA's suicide capital

01 August 2017 - 14:10 By Dave Chambers
The change in preference to hanging as the preferred method of suicide brings Pretoria in line with the rest of the world.
The change in preference to hanging as the preferred method of suicide brings Pretoria in line with the rest of the world.
Image: iStock

Hanging has replaced a bullet to the brain as the preferred method of killing yourself in South Africa’s suicide capital.

Of the 957 suicide cases handled by Pretoria’s medico-legal laboratory between 2007 and 2010‚ 43% had hung themselves‚ twice the number who used a gun.

An earlier study that analysed suicides in the city between 1997 and 2000 said guns were the most popular method‚ particularly among women.

Four forensic medicine researchers from the University of Pretoria argue in the South African Medical Journal that the introduction of the Firearms Control Act in 2004‚ which clamped down on gun ownership‚ “has positively impacted on the use of such weapons in committing suicide”.

Pretoria’s suicide rate of 25 per 100 000 people annually is 14 times higher than the national average‚ largely driven by white males.

Whites make up only 22% of the city’s population but in the latest survey half the victims were white and three-quarters male.

Members of the South African National Defence Force and the police service are also disproportionately represented — among employed suicide victims‚ they made up 10%.

The change in preference to hanging as the preferred method of suicide brings Pretoria in line with the rest of the world. Globally‚ around 1.5 million people commit suicide every year‚ with hanging the most common method.

Researcher Neil Morris said: “In our study‚ black females were more likely to hang themselves‚ in contrast to the reported findings of self-immolation as the previously preferred method of suicide among this group.”

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