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On average 18 men take their own lives each day in SA

10 September 2017 - 16:42 By Suthentira Govender
Depressed man sitting on the floor with his head down.
Depressed man sitting on the floor with his head down.
Image: iStock

Kevin Sanders was forced to become the “man of the house” at 18‚ after his father suddenly took his own life.

There were no signs that Sanders’s father was going to commit suicide‚ because he never spoke about the troubles that plagued him.

Sanders - now 27 - is channelling his grief into trying to help South African men not go down the same road by speaking out about suicide as part of the Men’s Foundation of SA’s campaign - an NGO that creates awareness about health issues affecting men.

With Monday being World Suicide Awareness Day‚ the foundation has warned that South Africa is in crisis when it comes to suicide amongst men.

“South African has the eighth-highest suicide rate in the world. It’s a crisis when we’re losing the futures of 18 men daily in the country and we don’t talk about it or the public is now aware of it‚” said Garron Gsell‚ of the foundation.

Sanders said his father’s suicide had a huge impact on his family.

“My dad was the person I looked up to as my hero. I had just finished matric and started studying with a part-time job and had to fill his shoes in our family.

“I’ve had to learn to be able to talk about what happened to my dad openly and share why I think it happened so others can maybe have a change of heart and talk about those feelings to someone close to them or just try and find help‚” said Sanders.

Gsell believes increasing financial pressures and silence over personal problems are driving men to end their lives.

“In most cases men are the breadwinners for their families‚ which puts a great amount of pressure on them. When they are unable to provide they are left feeling inadequate and overwhelmed to the point that they feel that they can't talk about it and the only way out is to end their lives‚” said Gsell.

“There is a general perception that vulnerability is a sign of weakness‚ but it is actually a sign of great strength.”

According to Gsell‚ many men are becoming more comfortable discussing physical health issues‚ however the subject of mental health “is still taboo”.

The foundation‚ which drives the Movember campaign in South Africa - will be launching an innovative initiative early in 2018 to get more men to share the challenges they are facing.

“The global Movember-rated barbers’ initiative provides crisis communication to help when dealing with clients who open up while they are in the barber’s chair. This is will be launched in South Africa soon‚” said Gsell.

He said government funding primarily focused on women‚ children and the elderly and “there are good reasons for this”.

“What that means is that if we want to help men‚ then we have to rely on the private and public sector to donate and invest in programmes that will make a difference.

“We are making a stand for men to understand that when they are struggling there is support available.”

Where you can turn to for help:

- Lifeline - 0861 322 322

- Suicide Crisis Line - 0800 567 567

- SADAG Mental Health Line - 011 234 4837