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The Student Counselling and Wellness Centre at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) hosted a Community Care and Support Workshop via Microsoft Teams on Tuesday, 01 June 2021. 

The workshop equipped DUT students with methods of preventing suicide. The purpose of the workshop was to create awareness and to address stigma around suicide. It also provided the students with relevant information and procedure for assisting students who may be at risk.

Defining suicide was DUT’s Intern psychologist, Bo Staci Rode who said it is a death caused by injuring oneself with the intent to die. She also unpacked different terms associated with suicide namely suicide ideation which she referred to as thinking about suicide and thoughts about ending one’s life, meanwhile she said suicide intent is having plans to follow through with suicidal thoughts.

She said their objectives as the DUT community is to address students’ concerns and distress. One of their aims being to empower students through information and resources and to raise awareness on suicide. Rode highlighted that they are based at Steve Biko campus in Durban and assist students with personal and academic difficulties. 

The guest speaker was Lynn Norton, from the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), who said that they offer free telephonic counselling which is 24 hours, a useful service for everyone who is suffering or who knows someone in need of counselling. She said they also do have the suicide crisis help line which includes students support helpline and the general line which is available for everyone. Norton said they also raise awareness on mental health and advocacy, with the aim to decrease the stigma around mental health. 

Intern psychologist in DUT’s Midlands campus, Esi Zibi discussed how society and culture influence how people think about suicide. She said beliefs and attitudes towards suicidal behaviour may vary across cultures and religions. 

“Shame and stigma may prevent people from coming forward and trying to get help, thinking it is wrong to be struggling or wrong to talk about your problems. Seeking help may be thought of or viewed as a personal spiritual weakness. There may also be certain societal pressures such as men having to be strong and that men cannot show their emotions,” said Zibi. 

Furthermore, she explained that another worrying factor was suicide stigma where feeling guilty or shameful may prevent people from reaching out or getting help. Listing the suicide risk factors, Zibi said: 

  • Ideation-Thoughts of suicide, 
  • Purposelessness-Seeing no reason for living, 
  • Anxiety-Anxiousness and agitation, 
  • Trapped-Feeling as there is no way out, 
  • Hopelessness-Feeling hopeless about oneself, others or the future, 
  • Anger-Feeling of rage or uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge, 
  • Recklessness-Acting without regard for consequences, 
  • Mood Changes-Dramatic changes in mood, unstable mood. 

Other contributing factors to look out for, Zibi said were: previous suicide attempts, harmful use of alcohol and other substances, job or financial loss, chronic pain and illness, family history of suicide, withdrawal/isolation from friends, family, usual activities and society, also the academic pressures and relational problems. 

Advising on how to get help for a friend who may be suicidal, Rode stated that students should “ABC”, where A stands for acknowledging someone’s behaviour and feelings. B stands for be there to listen and understand the difficulties the friend may be going through, meanwhile C stands for check in with the friend and see how they are feeling.

“Encourage them to talk to someone that can help. Stay with them until they are in a safe environment or with someone that can help. You can also contact someone who can help the Residence Administrator (RA), Res leader and Student Counselling. It is also important to get help for yourself if you start to notice that you have suicidal thoughts and suicidal intent. It is important to promise yourself that you will not do anything to harm yourself. Separate thoughts and actions, put a distance between them and know that you do not have to act on the thoughts immediately. If your thoughts are intrusive, try to distract yourself by changing your environment, playing your favourite song might also help or simply call a friend,” advised Rode.

DUT’s Senior Professional Nurse from the Department of Counselling and Health urged students to seek help. She said in a case of a suicidal patient, during office hours, the professional nurse calls for assistance from security and clinical psychologist on campus to access the patient. If need be she said they contact the Maponya 911 ambulance to ensure that the patients gets medical treatment. 

The workshop ended with guests sharing their stories on mental illness and past experiences as a way of motivating each other to rise above any problem that they face. 

Those in need of help can contact 24-hour hotlines: Lifeline on 0861 322 322 or SADAG on 011 234 4837. They can also send an email to the DUT Student Counselling at: if in Durban or for those in Midlands campuses. 

Pictured: Bo Rode and Esi Zibi

Simangele Zuma 

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