Suicide behaviour constitutes a serious public and mental health problem, with an increasing number of young people taking their own lives. In South Africa, suicide is the third leading cause of death in young people aged 15 to 24 and the fourth leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 14. 

While suicide is always viewed as a serious problem, this issue raised much concern in the Pietermaritzburg north area during the year 2001 when a secondary school pupil became the third pupil at his school and the 15th child in the area to take his own life over a period of seven months. Feeling the need to respond to this problem Famcare Therapy Centre and Pietermaritzburg and District Community Chest (who initiated a mental health destigmatization campaign in the city during the year 2000) decided that a community-based prevention programme was necessary. A major campaign in the area could have maximum impact in reaching the youth and transmitting positive messages relating to mental health. This resulted in the birth of ‘Love to Live’, a campaign spearheaded by a committee of mental health professionals, educators, sports representatives, business and other concerned members of the community.

Programme of Action

Against this background the coordinating committee set about developing a mental health promotion campaign targeting suicide prevention among the young. To this end responsible media coverage of the youth suicide problem was encouraged, focusing more on the help and resources available within the city and how to cope with suicidal thoughts. A two-day community awareness campaign was launched in an attempt to reduce the rate of suicides. The event took place at a large stadium in the city, and included social, recreational and sporting components, catering to the needs of the youth. However, it also imparted the valuable messages of positive mental health. It is important to remember that health promotion campaigns aimed at young people must include social and recreational elements in order to encourage attendance and participation. To this end the programme provided two full days of entertainment, sport, music, dance, fashion and sketch presentations by learners who were encouraged to infuse crucial positive messaging on suicide prevention.

 

        

 Target Community

Research has demonstrated that suicidal behaviour is not limited to specific groups, and is increasingly affecting all of the nation’s people. However, in view of the concerns over the self-destructive behaviours among youth, the main target population for this campaign was the Primary and Secondary School pupils in the Pietermaritzburg area. The idea was to encourage as many young people (and their families) as possible to attend and participate in the campaign so that the critical mental health messages of Love to Live could be disseminated. 

A branch was established in Newcastle in 2007 with successful events being staged annually since then. Successful roadshows has been held at several schools in Pietermaritzburg (Heather Secondary, Sobantu Secondary, Sukuma High and recently at Henryville Primary School in Edendale). Events are being planned at Ixopo and Port Shepstone later this year.

 

 

 

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