Close to 1 800 people in the country have committed suicide in the four months following the declaration of the lockdown in March. This has been revealed by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize in a written reply to a DA Parliamentary question in the NCOP.
Minister Mkhize says 1 781 suicide-related deaths occurred under lockdown between the 27 March and 27 July.
The province with the most incidents is Gauteng with 482 suicide-related deaths. This is followed by KwaZulu-Natal standing at 392. Eastern Cape had 297 and the Western Cape had 180 people who committed suicide over the four month period. Mpumalanga had 175 suicide-related deaths, Limpopo had 117, followed by North West with 73 people who committed suicide under lockdown.
The Free State had 51 and the Northern Cape had 44 people who died from suicide.
In May, some mental health experts told SABC News that many South Africans are increasingly experiencing depression due to financial burdens and stress brought about by the coronavirus pandemic and resultant lockdown. They say the COVID-19 virus has sparked anxiety, panic and an increase in substance abuse.
Statistics show that worldwide, depression affects more than 300 million people. Helplines are inundated with calls from people who are suicidal.
Psychologist Thokozani Sithole says COVID-19 has induced a lot of anxiety and depression.
“The pandemic has induced a lot of anxiety, a lot of depression symptoms. People are feeling lonely during lockdown and their lives have stopped. So, that impacts a lot on their psychological functioning and well-being. What I have seen as a physiologist in my practice, these sorts of red flags play out and people are suffering in silence. They don’t have anyone to talk to them and no one understands what’s happening. The reality is mental health is stigmatised, people don’t talk about these issues, or feeling, depressed, and having anxiety.”