View article with images - click here [pdf]
BY VAN ESSA PAPAS
A TEEN will lose their life — by their own hand — in the time it takes you to read this. At the close of Suicide Prevention Week, People investigates a subject most parents would prefer to not even contemplate... Teen suicide.
Where To Get Help: Call Sadag on 0800 567 567 or SMS 31393 seven days a week. 08h00 to 20h00. Contact the 24-hour helpline on 0800 12 13 14.
In South P.,frica, hanging is the frequently employed method most , of suicide, followed by shooting, gassing and burning. Sixty percent of teens who commit suicide suffer from some form of mental illness, mostly depression. the rest of the In comparison to world, teens n ted su uicide is an explosive problem in South Africa with one i five teens having attempicde, i and 9.5 percent of all teen deaths due to suicide. 75% of people who commit suicide give some warning. This means all suicide threats should be taken seriously.
IN a perfect world, no teenager would ever take their own life and no parent would ever experience the harrowing loss of losing their child to suicide. But we don't live in a perfect world. Every 40 seconds, a young life is lost. The suicide rate for children aged between 10 and 14 years old has more than doubled over the last 15 years. We cannot measure the value of life cut short by suicide. But we can reduce the number of senseless tragedies — often just by listening. A recent teen suicide highlights the existence of what is a very real epidemic. Just weeks ago, Erik du Preez, a matric pupil at St Alban's College in Lynnwood Glen, shot himself in his home in Garsfonetien. Heartbroken and consumed by grief over her only son's death, Erik's mom, Ingrid later took her own life — also shooting herself. St Al ban's College headmaster, Tom Hamilton, said in a statement that Du Preez was "A well-liked young man and in many ways an inspiration to his peers and juniors". Teen suicide is often not a topic openly discussed in many households yet it's perhaps one of the most important thing families should speak about. "Many parents feel that if they don't talk about suicide, then it won't be an issue," says Cassey Chambers, operations director of The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag). "They are worried that if they talk about suicide that it may 'plant the seed', which is definitely not the case at all. Having a discussion on suicide, what it is, what someone goes through, what would cause someone to feel suicidal can really help parents better understand their teen. By not talking about suicide and depression, your teen doesn't know who to open up to or who to ask questions. "While the most at-risk age group is between 14 and 17 years old, children as young as seven years old have committed suicide, so it's important to encourage open conversations and be honest with your child, no matter their age, so they know that they can turn to you for help or information." According to Sadag, depression is the leading cause of teen suicide, and a combination of things often trigger depression, including family problems (separation, divorce, domestic violence and abuse), death or loss of a loved one, relationship issues (with a best friend or boyfriend/girlfriend), school-related issues (learning difficulties, bullying), and illness and poverty. "If you think your child is depressed, the most important thing that you can do is to ask your child directly if they have ever thought of hurting themselves or wanted to kill themselves," says Chambers. "It is crucial that you listen to their feelings. Don't belittle their emotions. Reassure them that you will help them every step of the way and that getting professional help is important to help them cope and get better. Each parent should remember that they cannot 'fix' their child's depression, it needs professional help from a school counselor, psychologist or doctor." In some cases, when a teen is severely depressed and it is impairing their daily functioning, they may need to be assessed and diagnosed by a child psychiatrist. In conjunction with the psychiatrist, it may be suggested that the teen start on a mild antidepressant. "Depression doesn't mean a person is 'crazy'," adds Chambers. "Depression is a real medical illness. Just like things can go wrong in your body, things can go wrong in your brain. Luckily, most teens who get help for their depression go on to recover."