Matrics who fail need support - not criticism or judgement -
in order to avoid suicide, says KZN Health MEC, Dr Sibongiseni
05 January 2016
WITH the release of the 2016 matric results today (05 January
2017), KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo has
appealed to parents, guardians and society at large to be more
supportive - and less judgmental - towards matric learners who
have failed or did not perform well in their final examinations.
This, he says, will help avoid incidents of suicide, as matric
failure is regarded as a contributor to the high rate of suicide
among young people in South Africa.
“People who turn to desperate measures like suicide often feel
helpless and alone. And each life lost to suicide, especially a
young life, is one life too many. We therefore must do all we
can to prevent these tragedies, not just at a government level,
but as civil society. It is a desperate call for help and we
must respond collectively,” MEC Dhlomo says.
In South Africa, the average suicide rate is 17.2 per 100 000
(8% of all deaths), according to South Africa Depression and
Anxiety Group (SADAG). SADAG says that up to 75% of people who
commit suicide give some warning – meaning that all suicide
threats should be taken seriously.
The warning signs include talking or joking about suicide,
depression (identified as loss of interest to things you
normally enjoy), preparing for death (such as giving favourite
things away), self-criticism and changes in personality, such as
sudden negative and aggressive behaviour.
It is believed that the rate of suicide is worsened by the
general lack of awareness or understanding of mental challenges
in the country.
MEC Dhlomo is thus urging the public to become more vigilant
when interacting with matric pupils from the class of 2016 who
have not performed well in their exams. This will help identify
signs of suicide in order to find ways to assist those in
“South Africa has the eighth highest rate of suicide in the
world, according to the South African Federation for Mental
Health. Such statistics cannot be ignored. History has shown us
that some matriculants who don’t do well at the exams tend to
struggle to cope with the results and end up taking their own
lives. This is a call for us as civil society, parents, friends,
colleagues and government to step in and reaffirm our uBuntu
values and commitment. As a Department we want anyone who feels
overwhelmed to know help is available,” he says.
Dr Dhlomo says that every hospital in the province has a system
of referral for those requiring counselling and anyone needing
assistance is urged to get in touch with their nearest health
“We want young people to know that there is always a way out,
and that is not to take one’s own life. As a Department, we have
skilled counsellors and health workers who are available to
provide advice and counselling to those in need. Our country is
also fortunate to have many organisations in all areas that are
on hand to provide a guiding hand, a listening ear and a way
forward to ease the burden people of all ages often face in
According to the SADAG, people who are suicidal can be helped in
the following ways:
• Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-fact about suicide.
• Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept
• Be non-judgmental. Do not debate whether suicide is right or
wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Do not lecture on
the value of life.
• Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
• Do not dare him or her to do it.
• Do not act shocked. This will put distance between you.
• Do not be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
• Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer
• Ask if you may contact a family member.
• Take action. Remove means, such as guns or stockpiled pills.
• Do not leave them alone, get help from persons specializing in
crisis intervention and suicide prevention.
• If necessary, get in touch with the police on 10111; or the
KZN Emergency Medical Services on 10177, 112 or 0800005133.
Issued by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health
Contact Sam Mkhwanazi on 081 038 2193