Job losses owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and resultant lockdowns have seen a 90% spike to more than 1 000 people taking their own lives in Gauteng.
Under pressure from banks, debt collectors, and family responsibilities many jobless people have given up and committed suicide.
A World Bank report on South Africa says: “By the end of 2020, despite two-quarters of employment growth, the number of employed people had fallen by nearly 1.5 million, and the wages of workers who still had jobs had fallen by 10 – 15%”.
Refiloe Nt’sekhe, a Democratic Alliance (DA) member of the provincial legislature in Gauteng, said the loss of income was the main reason for the 90% increase in suicide cases in the province.
Nt’sekhe – the DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Social Development – on Sunday revealed that more than 1 000 people had taken their own lives in the province.
“While residents continue to suffer the consequences of the economically disastrous Covid-19 lockdown of 2020 and 2021, cases of suicide in the province have increased by 90%, from 695 cases reported during the 2019/20 financial year to 1 325 deaths reported since April 2020 to date,” said Nt’sekhe.
The DA member of the legislature said these numbers were given to her by the Community Safety MEC Faith Mazibuko in reply “to my written question”.
Nt’sekhe added: “It was revealed that the contributing factors to those choosing to end their life included depression, loss of income during the Covid-19 pandemic, financial difficulties, death of family members, and domestic violence.
“It is terribly sad to imagine what pain these vulnerable individuals had been going through to reach such a dark point in their life.
“Even survivors of suicide have disclosed that it is never an easy decision, and mostly one taken out of desperation to release themselves from the pain they have no way of eradicating.”
Nt’sekhe said while social workers provide a broad range of social, emotional, behavioural, school, and family interventions the Department of Social Development (DSD) did not have specific programmes that directly tackle the increase in suicide rates.
“The Gauteng DSD must embark on a more aggressive awareness campaign of what counselling and support services are available to those who are suffering,” said Nt’sekhe.
“Many victims feel that there is no help within their reach, and therefore need to me made more aware of what services are available and where they can access them.”