Scenes outside the La Rochelle Hoër Meisieskool in Paarl when learners, parents and community members laid flowers to pay their respects to two learners who allegedly committed suicide. Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)
Scenes outside the La Rochelle Hoër Meisieskool in Paarl when learners, parents and community members laid flowers to pay their respects to two learners who allegedly committed suicide. Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)

Focus on teen suicide awareness as Sadag notices rise in helpline calls

By Nomalanga Tshuma Time of article published Feb 15, 2021

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Cape Town - The SA Depression and Anxiety Group says it has noted an increase in the number of calls to its suicide prevention helpline.

This, as civil society organisations across the country are set to host Teen Suicide Prevention Week this week, in an effort to raise awareness around teen depression and suicide, especially with the increased stressors of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15 to 19 year olds.

Psychiatrist and Sadag Board Chairperson, Dr Frans Korb, said: “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 particularly high risk for suicide. Depression is the leading cause of suicide, it doesn’t discriminate against age, gender, race, religion or socio-economic background.

“Teen depression and suicide is a particularly high risk in South African teens as the mental health impact of Covid-19 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,” said Korb.

This year Sadag has chosen to focus on creating awareness about the stigma and fear around suicide and how best parents and teachers can be equipped to better respond to teens in need.

Last year the Paarl community was left shocked when two Grade 11 learners at La Rochelle High School committed suicide with 48 hours.

Sadag operations director, Cassey Chambers, said: “Research shows that talking about suicide with a young person ‘does not’ cause them to have thoughts of suicide or kill themselves.

“Informing and empowering parents and teachers on how to have these conversations with teens is the first step to preventing teen suicide. Many parents and teachers are afraid that if they talk about suicide to teens that it would cause them to take their life.

“Not talking about it, however, can lead to thoughts of suicide turning into actions. Talking about suicide and depression creates 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 suicidal thoughts or feelings,” said Chambers.

Cape Argus

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