Creating Hope Through Action This World Suicide Prevention Day

SAFMH News Room

World Suicide Prevention Day [WSPD] takes place on 10 September annually.

Despite the ongoing efforts to raise awareness, suicide rates are going up each year. Globally, one in every 100 deaths is because of suicide. 77% percent of suicides occur in lower-and-middle income countries like South Africa, where it is estimated that every day, 23 people lose their lives to suicide – the third-highest suicide rate out of all African countries. This is a devastating reality, yet it does not have to be inevitable. Suicide is preventable, provided that help (in the form of policies and interventions) exists.

The global theme for WSPD has been ‘Creating Hope Through Action’ since 2021. This is the theme’s final year and now, more than ever, we need actionable suicide prevention initiatives that are systemic, community-based and intersectoral. This is especially true with regards to teen suicide.

Suicide is the fourth  leading cause of death among 15-29 year old’s globally. In a study on non-fatal suicidal behaviour among first-year university students in South Africa from 2019, nearly half (46.4%) mentioned having thoughts about suicide, while over a quarter (26.5%) reported planning their suicide and 8.6% reported attempting suicide. Students who identified as women, Black, second-generation university students, and not heterosexual were more likely than their peers to report non-fatal suicidal behaviours. We need systematic interventions that target these specific groups, whom we know are more at risk.

The South African government and key NGOs do provide suicide prevention initiatives to defuse and prevent acute (serious) suicide from taking place, such as national suicide hotlines like those offered by SADAG and Lifeline. However, more suicide prevention and treatment efforts are needed. Whilst we commend the refreshed National Mental Health Policy Framework (2023-2030) for specifically outlining that comprehensive suicide prevention programmes will be implemented at national and provincial level throughout the country, we still believe more can be done, including:

  • Funding ongoing, accessible therapeutic contact with people at high risk of dying by suicide, including within the incoming National Health Insurance and in the renewed Mental Health Policy Framework, set to be released this year.
  • Fund research and implementation of community-based outpatient services (e.g. the SAFETY program) for people, including youth, who have attempted suicide.
  • Reducing known risk factors for suicide (e.g. unemployment) and harnessing protective factors (e.g. hope and self-esteem).
  • Funding gender-sensitive prevention programmes targeted at men. In South Africa, men are four times more likely to die by suicide compared to women. This alarming statistic requires a targeted public health response.

Regarding policy, the SA Federation for Mental Health [SAFMH]’s National Executive Director, Bharti Patel says: “We need to have a Presidential Task Force on suicide to develop a National Suicide Prevention Policy and Action Plan. This task force must include different stakeholders, including people who have survived suicide and those who have lost someone to suicide to work together to make an impact.”

Last year September, SAFMH teamed up with Waves for Change and other key experts to host a webinar entitled Suicide Prevention in South Africa. The webinar was a space for dialogue, education, and advocacy, with the main take-away being that we need to start normalising the conversation around suicide and creating safe spaces for people to share how they are really feeling. You can watch the webinar below.

Leon de Beer, Deputy Director of SAFMH, says:

We continue to lose too many precious lives to suicide; something that is sadly so preventable. While high level policies and coordinated strategies and interventions are vital in bringing about large-scale change, it also simply boils down to us as human beings caring about and connecting with each other and taking a few seconds out of your day to ask someone who might be struggling “are you ok?”. That small gesture of kindness might be enough to save someone’s life. So don’t wait for the next person to be the helping hand. Be it yourself, today!

This WSPD, we encourage everyone to act when it comes to preventing suicide.

Help is available. For those who are suicidal and need help or are unsure how to help someone in need, contact:

  • The National Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567. This number is free, operates 24 hours, and offers counselling in all 11 official languages.

Additional FREE hotlines for support with your mental health include:

  • Dr Reddy’s Mental Health Helpline on 0800 21 22 23. This number is free and operates 8AM – 8PM every day.
  • Cipla Mental Health Hotline on 0800 456 789. This number is free and operates 24 hours.
  • The Adcock Ingram Depression and Anxiety Helpline on 0800 70 80 90. This number is free, operates 24 hours and offers counselling in all 11 official languages.
  • The Substance Abuse Helpline on 0800 12 13 14. This number is free, operates 24 hours, and offers counselling in all 11 official languages.


For enquiries, please contact:

Michel’le Donnelly – Project Leader: Advocacy & Awareness

CELL: +27 (0)79 799 6533

EMAIL: michel’


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