Teen Suicide Prevention Week (14 – 21 February 2022)
Teen Suicide Prevention Week (14 – 21 February 2022) highlights awareness around teen depression and suicide, especially with the increased stressors of COVID-19 pandemic has worsened across the globe, so has the mental health of children and teens. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in 15 – 19 year olds (WHO, 2020).
The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) is focusing on creating awareness that teen depression and suicide is a particular high risk in South African teens as the mental health impact of COVID19 has been immense, especially as they navigate a new world of online learning or delayed learning, social isolation, loss, grief and trauma, with increased anxiety and depression.
Psychiatrist and SADAG Board Chairperson, Dr Frans Korb, says “There is a myth that depression or suicide doesn’t affect teens or children, in fact it is very real and affects more young people than we know, with teens being a particular high risk for suicide. Depression is the leading cause of suicide, it doesn’t discriminate against age, gender, race, religion or socio-economic background.”
SADAG has seen an increase in the number of calls to the Suicide Helpline, and we encourage parents, teachers and family members to know the warning signs of depression and suicide, and to reach out for help as soon as possible. Now more than ever, parents need to connect and engage with their children – ask questions, listen to understand, get to know what is happening in their teens lives and what they are feeling and thinking, and connect to help if you pick up any warning signs for depression or suicide before it is too late – it could save a life.
There is still a lot of stigma and fear around suicide, and many parents and teachers are afraid that if they talk about suicide to teens that it would cause them to take their life. SADAG’s Operations Director, Cassey Chambers explains, “Research shows that talking about suicide with a young person DOES NOT cause them to have thoughts of suicide or kill themselves. But NOT talking about it can lead to thoughts of suicide turning into actions. Talking about suicide and depression create an opportunity to discuss feelings and thoughts that might have otherwise remain hidden. Most teens who are thinking about suicide are actually honest and relieved when asked direct questions about their suicide thoughts or feelings.” But informing and empowering parents and teachers on how to have these conversations with teens is the first step to preventing teen suicide.
“Even if you notice 1 warning sign, don’t wait or leave it. Talk today, listen and connect to help – it could save a life,” says SADAG’s, Cassey Chambers.