By: T. Masinga

Like 80% of the inhabitants in the world who have access to internet, I woke up on morning of the month of June and as a norm I went to my social media platforms to check my news feed. This morning it was different news than usual as I learnt about the passing of a well-known celebrity.  My first thoughts were “South Africans are at it again, killing off celebrities who aren’t dead on social media for attention”. Little did I know it was actually real. How many times over the year’s did we read false trending hash tags on Twitter saying “RIP Mandoza” while he was still alive? One has to double check every report before joining in the craze of fake news surrounding celebrities.

As I did some research to find out what exactly happened to this young man, it is alleged that he had committed suicide at his home. I was saddened, but it also got me thinking, in a very non-judgemental way, what drives or leads people to wanting to take their own life. Sometimes looking from the outside-in, it is easy to just say “it could not have been that bad”. But do we actually put ourselves in other person’s shoes and consider all possible negative things happening and that has happened in their lives that leads them to that moment, that one final moment where they just simply cannot bare to breath anymore, cannot take another day living on this earth, that moment where death seems to be the only way out?

I am not a shrink nor psychologist nor psychiatrist or medical practitioner, but I can think of a few things that can lead people to this state of mind.

Depression. This is one illness that is taken lightly but can land one in hospital for days or weeks. I realised the extent of this when a friend of mine got admitted to hospital for depression. It took me by surprise because I genuinely would not have thought this person was struggling with anything and is depressed. But how do we get to a point where we can’t even tell that someone is going through something and has lead them to depression? My only solution to this is to spend quality time with people. Ask people how they are doing, check if everything is alright, have a relationship with your friends outside of the usual “when are we hanging out” chats. People love knowing that they are appreciated and cared for. Depression can lead to sadness. People are sad. Most people do not even show it. So no, you will not know that your friend is sad if all you talk about is the next time you will have a good time together. What happens during the time in between? Build genuine relationships with your friends and everyone in your life by communicating.

Pressure (from social groups/ society / family/ friends/ church folks/ workplace). Personally I think this is one of the greatest drives to suicide. The pressure to succeed in 2017 is as high as it can be. If it is not pressure from family (keeping in mind that families are different, some of this pressure can be both positive and/ or negative), pressure from the workplace (negative competition), pressure from peers. As if all of this isn’t enough, we have social media pressure. Everyone one wants to be “on fleek”. Every single year in January we hear the same stories about grade 12 students committing suicide because they did not make it. One or more of the reasons why a student would be lead to this is because of pressures from these groups mentioned above. Are we going to go through the same treacherous issues with students every single year? Read the same headlines? Have a family bury an 18 year old due to the fact that they thought their life was a dead end from failing a grade? The question is what are we as family and friends who know students doing matric saying to them. It is not a now or never situation. This is not a death row. Let us stop saying things that will leave people feeling disdain.

Love and genuine love goes a long way. Let’s let our loved ones know that ‘even if it you don’t make it this year’ I will still be here and love you the same way. No one deserves to think they are living a life of vanity. No one deserves to be interred into a state of sadness so much that they want to take their own life. This is basically living a life to please others, to not disappoint, to live up to society’s standards, it is debilitating. Let’s allow people to be, to make mistakes and grow from them. Let us not add unnecessary pressure on people. At the end of the day, all people want is to be loved.

The sad part about suicide is that it does not eliminate sadness. The sadness is just passed on from the deceased to their loved ones left behind.