Session 5: Living with Suicide

2nd Global Conference


Monday 31st October – Wednesday 2nd November 2011
Prague, Czech Republic

Talking through the Dead: The Impact and Interplay of Lived Grief
Kathy McKay
Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia

The position of suicide research occupies a strange place in the academic world. While its feet are placed in myriad disciplines, it is still largely ruled by a white-male-medical paradigm. Yet, there are deeper interplays at work in this research field than intellectual intercourse alone. Within the frames of suicide, grief becomes a multi-faceted experience. Traditionally, this grief was silenced where the shame attached to suicide invalidated a person’s need for expression. Even now, it can be difficult for people to fully articulate their grief, let alone find an empathetic audience. How do we dissect this grief, understand it in terms of better helping those who have lost someone? There needs to be more than mere survival. Indeed, grief goes beyond that of individuals left behind. How do we help those communities where suicide has become an almost-normalised behaviour, where the cycle of grief is never-ending? How do we understand the grief experienced by someone who has survived a suicide attempt when their sole intent was to die? Further, where do we as researchers sit in terms of our own lived experiences of suicide? Can we be good researchers without having experienced this grief first-hand? In this way, a discourse around the experience of suicide grief within the frames of more practical and appropriate research needs to be opened. A balance needs to be created in research where the voices of grief can be included but the experiential context understood and respected.

Download Draft Conference Paper (pdf)

“Each one teach one” … Mental Health Awareness and Suicide: A South African Perspective.
Janine L. Shamos
Private University in Johannesburg, South Africa

Over 15% of South Africans suffered a common mental illness in the last year. One province has only one psychiatrist for over 4 million people. 9.5% of teen deaths are due to suicide and there are 22 suicides every day. Yet stigma and misunderstanding about mental illness in rural and peri-urban areas is widespread and many areas of the country are under-resourced. Mental ill health is often associated with poverty and deprivation.

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) is South Africa’s most influential mental health NGO. SADAG has undertaken a community-based intervention in a Johannesburg township, Diepsloot – a free container counselling centre. This is a discussion of SADAG’s experiences in this sprawling, poverty stricken area.

Mental health is not given the priority it deserves. Poverty, stigma and lack of mental health literacy are key barriers to mental health and wellness. Counselling and support services for mental health are often lacking in rural and peri-urban communities. Providing cost-effective sustainable mental health resources, even in remote areas, is critical to the mental health of South Africa. An “Each One Teach One” philosophy is a key determinant of health and wellness in under-resourced areas.

Download Draft Conference Paper (pdf)