Professor Rael Strous, South African-born medical director of Mayanei Hayeshua’s Mental Health Wing, was on home ground in late August 2017 for a whirlwind series of well-publicised talks in Johannesburg on the subject of suicide prevention.
Professor Strous is one of Israel’s leading psychiatrists, and he is a member of the country’s suicide prevention committee. Feedback from the several hundred professionals and lay people who attended these events has been universally positive. Community leaders unanimously praised Professor Strous’ ability to explain the complexities of this painful topic, and to answer the many questions that were raised. Communal organisations are already planning for the professor to make a return visit to Johannesburg.
In just 36 hours, Professor Strous addressed a diverse mix of audiences. He spoke to over 80 social workers, doctors and other medical personnel working with the Chevrah Kadisha, the largest communal Jewish welfare organisation in South Africa. Professor Strous’ talk, “Final Exit by Choice: suicide on the psychiatrist’s couch – how to understand and how to manage,” was part of the Chevra’s Professional Development Programme. The professor also addressed pupils of the Torah Academy Boys High School on mental health in general, and on suicide in particular; and he addressed the teaching faculty at the Beth Yakov Girls’ High School on “Mental Health in School Students – A Basic Guide for Teachers”.
Professor Strous also engaged with Hatzola Medical Rescue South Africa. He addressed 40 first responders and paramedics on how to handle patients who may be at risk of suicide, and suggested the adoption of new protocols when attending people who are threatening suicide. The highlight of the professor’s visit to Johannesburg was a public lecture at King David High School, under the auspices of Hatzola. An audience of over 100 educators, parents and medical professionals heard Professor Rael Strous speak on “Let’s talk about suicide: Insights and advice on pre-teen and adolescent suicide.” Topics included the signs to be concerned about, the strategies a school should have in place, preventative education for parents and students, and how to tackle websites and media that glorify and encourage suicide.