We are living through not one but 3 epidemics, namely, covid-19, gender based violence and loneliness.  The new kid on the block – covid-19 – has exacerbated the other 2 public health problems that existed pre-covid-19.  This has immediate and long-term consequences on your mental health, including an increased risk of suicide.

I raise this uncomfortable conversation with you as a prevention intervention.  Covid-19 has brought us into never-before levels of mental and physical vulnerability.  Helplines report increase of daily calls, with 12% of people expressing suicidal ideation.  All risks have increased. And the worrisome fact is that these risks may increase over time as this “new normal” settles into reality.

Let’s consider many of the economic, psychosocial and health-associated risk factors that can be expected to increase suicide risk.

  1. Economic Stress:  the uncertainty surrounding the current economic downturn resulting in loss of retirement funds, jobs, unknown work status, income stability… and not knowing when and if it will end, will trigger more suicides.
  2. Social Isolation:  social connections mitigate against depression and suicidal thoughts.  Now the loss of contact with family and friends adds to the emotional burden, especially people in retirement homes, and hospital patients.  Social media can only go so far to feel connected.
  3. Loss of community and religious contact:  being able to attend regular family, religious, communal events can feel essential in feeling connected with others.  Research has shown that weekly attendance at religious services reduces suicide risks. Now these spaces are closed to us.
  4. Barriers to mental health treatment: mental health services are not given same priority as covid-19.  Support is lacking so people contemplating suicide have nowhere to go.
  5. Other medical problems: not only is access to health services restricted, but people feel afraid to go to a hospital or their local doctor.  People with chronic medical problems, like chronic pain, are already vulnerable to suicidal thinking, so loosing access to medical services reduces their ability to manage their problems effectively.
  6. Social and media influences:  confusion about government regulations, changes in scientific advice, peer conversations, leave people feeling anxious, afraid and uncertain.  Suicide can seem like an escape.

I want you to consider your own risk and the risk of anyone around you.


Offer support to anyone who you notice is expressing some, or a combination, of these symptoms…

  • Talking about: wanting to die, great guilt or shame, being a burden to others
  • Feeling: empty, hopeless, trapped, having no reason to live; Extremely sad, more anxious, agitated, full of rage; Unbearable emotional or physical pain
  • Changing behavior, such as:
  • Making a plan or researching ways to die
  • Withdrawing from friends, saying good bye, giving away important items, or making a will
  • Taking dangerous risks such as driving extremely fast
  • Displaying extreme mood swings
  • Eating or sleeping more or less
  • Using drugs or alcohol more often

Reach out for support: Call SADAG (South African Depression and Anxiety Group)

To contact a counsellor between 8am-8pm Monday to Sunday,
Call: 011 234 4837

For a suicidal Emergency contact 0800 567 567

24hr Helpline 0800 456 789

Feel free to reach out to me via whatsapp.  Anonymity is guaranteed.  Let me know where your anxieties, fears and worries sit with you.  Tell me what is soothing for you.  And what you need in this time of radical uncertainty.


060 890 1062

Feel free to book a tele-therapy Zoom session with me right here…

For more information please contact my PA Shantel:

Take care

Marlene #stayhome