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World Suicide Prevention Day - COVID-19 highlights the need for increased emotional support.



The 10th of September is World Suicide Prevention Day and this year the global theme is ‘Creating hope through action’. This message focuses on the hope that people will be empowered with confidence to engage with this complex subject. “Working from home, schools closing, quarantining, social remoteness, unemployment and the loss of loved ones is the reality of COVID-19. Even though we now have a glimmer of hope for some form of normality, with talk of an imminent 4th wave there is no doubt that the pandemic is and will continue to impact our lives,” says Marycke Ackhurst, pet behaviour expert from Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

Ackhurst says that at the heart of the Hill’s brand lies the fundamental desire to make a difference in not only pets’ lives but those of pet parents and their families too. “Through years of working closely with organisations locally and around the globe we know that pets provide emotional support.” Having recently sponsored A Dog for Life on Netflix, Hill’s Pet Nutrition was able to work with organisations to make a difference in the lives of South Africans from all walks of life, some having suffered loss, lacking in self-esteem, and experiencing anxiety. Ackhurst adds that the show has also helped to bring much needed awareness to the emotional support pets provide.

Depression affects more than 260 million people in the world while around half of all mental health conditions start by age 14. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in young people aged 15-29. In 2019, South Africa was ranked number 10 in countries with the highest suicide rates, with the World Health Organisation saying that every 40 seconds someone in the world commits suicide.

The pandemic has seen adults, teens and young children dealing with stress, anxiety and trauma not previously experienced. “We need to be providing support to one another, but now more than ever the saying about the need to keep our own cup full to enable us to help others rings true and our pets can help to provide love and support on a daily basis,” says Ackhurst.


Research shows that pets can help reduce stress, anxiety and depression and that individuals with pets tend to be happier, with improved self-esteem and social skills. “Pets provide a sense of comfort and, in a time where many of us are feeling alone, isolated and scared they can help to alleviate this.”

Ackhurst reminds potential pet parents that if they are considering bringing a pet into their home that it is a lifelong commitment. “A pet will always be there for you so whether you need some comfort while curling up together on the couch, going for a walk or having some playtime at home, time spent with them will always be emotionally beneficial.”

Individuals who may require emotional support are encouraged to contact The South African Depression and Anxiety Group or the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567.

For more information visit the Hill’s website

Instagram: @hillspetfoodsa

Facebook: @HillsPetZA