By Thuli Baloyi
The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) reports that the suicide rate for children aged 10 to 14 has more than doubled in the past 15 years. About 6000 to 8000 people commit suicide in South Africa each year and a third of the patients admitted to hospital after attempting it are children or teenagers. Some 60 percent of those who commit suicide are depressed.
Students arrive at school or university as the star of their family and community, with high expectations, and find stiff competition and often loneliness, says Professor Lourens Schlebusch, author of Mind Shift: Stress Management and Your Health. “They can become depressed, even suicidal – there’s been a huge increase in the black teen suicide rate. It’s important for parents to understand depression, know the signs, and help children to handle stress.”
STEPS TO PREVENTION
- Constantly remind them that you love them and are there to support them.
- Encourage them to view mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow. Whether they’ve failed an exam or fallen pregnant, help them analyse what went wrong and take steps to avoid them repeating the same behaviour.
- Sometimes talking out a problem is all a child needs to feel better. Listen empathetically and give guidance.
Do you think your child may be suffering from depression? If your child has five or more of the following symptoms, get professional help:
• Changes in sleeping patterns
• Change in appetite or weight
• Speaking or moving unusually fast (racing thoughts) or slowly (difficulty concentrating)
• Drop in school performance
• Unusually low, flatmood
• Frequent crying
• Tiredness or loss of energy
• Loss of interest in friends and games
• Feelings of worthlessness, failure, hopelessness or guilt
• Extreme anxiety, agitation or anger
• Regressive behaviour (thumbsucking, bed wetting)
• Complaints of aches or pains that don’t respond to treatment
• Use of alcohol or drugs
• Increased risk-taking behaviour or proneness to accidents
• Acting out – tantrums, rebelliousness, sexual behaviour
• Talking about death
For more information call SADAG on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393; or Lifeline on 0861 322 322