Suicide in Pretoria : a retrospective review, 2007 - 2010

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 16
  • Abstract:

    BACKGROUND : The World Health Organization has declared suicide a global health crisis, predicting that ~1.53 million people will commit suicide annually by 2020. OBJECTIVE : A study from South Africa reviewed 1 018 suicide cases in Pretoria over 4 years (1997 - 2000). Our study was undertaken to establish whether there have been substantial changes in the profile of suicide victims who died in Pretoria a decade later. METHODS : Case records at the Pretoria Medico-Legal Laboratory were reviewed retrospectively from 2007 to 2010. RESULTS : A total of 957 suicide cases were identified. Hanging was the most common method of suicide, followed by self-inflicted firearm injury. The true incidence of suicidal intake of prescription drugs/medication was difficult to determine, because of a backlog at the state toxicology laboratories. White males and females appeared to be over-represented among suicide victims, but there has been an increase in suicide among blacks. There seems to have been a substantial decrease in the use of firearms to commit suicide – possibly reflecting a positive outcome of gun control legislation that has been introduced in the interim. CONCLUSION : Suicide continues to constitute almost 10% of all fatalities admitted to the Pretoria Medico-Legal Laboratory, confirming suicide as a major cause of mortality in our society. Further research is needed to clarify the profile of suicidal deaths, with a view to informing resource allocation and to improve preventive strategies.