Teen Suicide prevention week. 15th to 21st February 2009
Emotional time for youth in South Africa
Adolescence is an emotional time (for teens and their parents), and South Africa’s youth are expected to cope with an increasing number of obstacles that include academic pressure, bullying, peer pressure and the need to measure up to others, adaptation to bodily changes, uncertain futures and economic stress in the family, loss of loved ones, crime, and trauma. Emotional difficulties like depression, stress and anxiety, are sadly often part of this process and, if undetected and untreated, can seriously affect the child’s school and social performance, their ability to form healthy relationships, and may even lead to suicide.
9.5% of South African teen deaths are due to suicide and often, it is the children we know, the teens we see everyday, interact with, our children’s friends, the teens we teach, who are affected and suffer in silence. Cries for help like drawing pictures about death, writing poetry about suicide, talking about going to sleep and never waking up are too often dismissed as a ‘phase’, something the child or teen will grow out of. We often believe that there is nothing we can do to stop a child taking his life – only a ‘trained professional’ can do that. We also don’t see the signs for what they are and dismiss unusual behaviour as being a natural part of growing up or ‘a bad attitude’.
Now, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) will be running Teen Suicide Prevention Workshops in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban in March for parents, educators, churches, and anyone with an interest in teenagers mental health. The aim of these workshops is to help adults and peers recognise the warning signs of depression and suicide, learn intervention skills, and understand the importance of not downplaying the seriousness of threats and other warning signs. “Too often, family, friends and schools react after the tragic fact”, says Amoore. “We encourage anyone with children, anyone who works with the youth, and anyone who has an interest in teen emotional wellness to attend these powerful workshops.” For more information please contact Chevonne on 011 262 6396.
“It’s very concerning that many teens say they have spoken about suicide but weren’t taken seriously. And those who attempted suicide also said they had spoken about it to someone before they attempted to take their own life”, says the SADAG’s Cassey Amoore. We tend to think that if someone wants to commit suicide, there is nothing we can do to stop them. Yet research indicates that 75% of people who commit, or attempt, suicide have given some warning. “We need to educate parents, teachers, and teens on how to recognise the warning signs and how to intervene”, says Amoore.
Teens often focus on the present and feel overwhelmed by emotions that are not rational and disturb them. They may become depressed or anxious, and this will show in their behaviour. Many South African teens endure despair, hopelessness and self-loathing in silence; afraid to approach an adult for help because of fear of the way they will react. Many think about taking their lives to end the pain. Yet only one or two things can save a teen’s life. Things like a strong connection to family, a best friend or adult they trust, hopes and dreams for the future.
“Educators and parents need to look out for changes in behaviour, uncharacteristic mood changes and teens, particularly girls, who don’t seem to be socially connected to their peers, seem lonely, and out of place, or have friends who don’t get along”, says psychologist Glenda Hicks. Suicidality doesn’t just arrive out of the blue – it’s a process. There is a history, an underlying illness that, untreated, can lead to suicide. Depression can affect anyone - even popular teens, sporty teens, and teens with good grades.
There is still a perception that teens that threaten suicide are not serious about it. This couldn’t be less true – or more dangerous. “When teens talk or joke about suicide it should always be taken seriously,” stresses Amoore. “Teens who romanticise death, are obsessed with death and dying or become involved in reckless behaviour, need to be helped just as much as those kids who openly threaten suicide.”
SADAG’s suicide crisis line is open from 8am to 8pm seven days a week on 0800 567 567. Teens can also SMS the group on 31393. Teen suicide is a preventable tragedy. It is not up to others to help, we need to act together to prevent more senseless loss of life. “Please don’t keep suicide a secret, and please know that if I seem sad, or angry, maybe something’s wrong. I may be in my own world, and I may wish it would end. Talk to me. It could save my life.” (16-year-old suicide survivor)
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Teen Suicide prevention week. 15th to 21st February 2009
Dr Reddy's Help Line
0800 21 22 23
Pharmadynamics Police &Trauma Line
0800 20 50 26
Adcock Ingram Depression and Anxiety Helpline
0800 70 80 90
Destiny Helpline for Youth & Students
0800 41 42 43
0800 55 44 33
Department of Social Development Substance Abuse Line 24hr helpline
0800 12 13 14
Suicide Crisis Line
0800 567 567
SADAG Mental Health Line
011 234 4837
Akeso Psychiatric Response Unit 24 Hour
0861 435 787
CALENDAR OF EVENTS 2018
Teen Suicide Prevention Week
11 - 18 February
Bipolar Awareness Day
Substance Abuse Awareness Day
Mental Health Awareness Month
1 – 31 July
Panic Awareness Day
World Suicide Prevention Day
World Mental Health Day
Want to become a volunteer counsellor? Contact Lara/Zoleka 0800 21 22 23
Download Application Form Here
If you are a journalist writing a story contact Cassey on
011 234 4837 /firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are interested in starting a Support Group, please contact Tiffany/Lara on 0800 21 22 23.
To find a Support Group in your area, please phone SADAG on 0800 21 22 23.