Durban - As thousands across the country commemorate #WorldMentalHealthDay today, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group has revealed shocking statistics on the mental health state of the youth in South Africa. This year’s focus is on youth and mental health.
The organisation said there are rising cases of child suicides.
In 2017, the youngest suicide was recorded where a 6-year-old took their life. In the last month, Sadag said they dealt with several university student suicides and just last week, a 15-year-old boy took his own life.
Sadag said they deal with hundreds of calls from young people, parents, teachers, churches and universities on a daily basis.
The group said this year alone, they dealt with more and more cases about varsity students who cannot cope with the pressure and this leads to suicides.
Clinical psychologist and Sadag board member, Zamo Mbele, said university students experience depression, stress and anxiety everyday without any knowledge they are suffering from a mental illness.
"Unfortunately this has lead to many suicides which we can't afford as a caring society. World Mental Health Day is important in spotlighting mental illness and promoting mental wellness for the student population which is a growing vulnerable group,” Mbele said.
Mbele said depression does not discriminate and can affect any race, age, gender or religion.
“It's important that parents, teachers, grandparents, loved ones and entire communities know that depression can affect young people too, even a 6 year old child. It is important to know the signs and symptoms of depression, the suicide warning signs and how to get help before it is too late,” Mbele said.
Sadag operations director, Cassey Chambers, said from the hundreds of calls that Sadag receives every day, children, teens and young adults are dealing with many problems they feel they can't handle.
“The main triggers include relationship problems, family issues, abuse, loss or grief and trauma. Other contributing factors include exam stress, substance abuse, bullying, learning difficulties, financial issues and chronic illness. The youth are not equipped with enough coping skills or support structures to handle the kind of problems that they have to deal with every day,” Chambers said.
The state of Youth and Mental Health Crisis in South Africa:
31.5% of teen suicide attempts required medical treatment
17.6% of teens had considered attempting suicide
1 in 4 university students had been diagnosed with Depression
Over 20% of 18 year olds had one or more suicide attempts
According to WHO Half of all mental health conditions start by 14 years of age but most cases are undetected and untreated.
Male youth die by suicide more than female youth
1 in 6 teens are/will be addicted to cannabis
Sadag is running an online campaign throughout October to eliminate Stigma surrounding Mental Health, and to encourage young people to talk about important topics related to Mental Health. Sadag's #WhatIf Campaign will focus on social media, follow Facebook (The South African Depression and Anxiety Group) and Twitter (@TheSADAG), talking questions such as:
#WhatIf more people knew there was help available before it was too late?
#WhatIf people knew that Depression was a real medical illness that needed real treatment?
#WhatIf we had more serious conversations about depression with our teens?
Sadag is highlighting #YouthMentalHealth in various activities throughout the month of October, which include:
Facebook Friday online expert chat on Friday the 12th October from 1pm-2pm and 7pm-8pm
School Talks to learners, teachers and parents about Teen Depression & Suicide Prevention in Diepsloot, Johannesburg, Pretoria, etc.
University wellness talks and events around the country
Uploading an Online Youth Toolkit with helpful articles, videos, resources and self-help tips via www.sadag.org
Suicide Helpline 0800 567 567
24 hour Cipla Mental Health Helpline 0800 456 789
24 hour Substance Abuse Helpline 0800 12 13 14