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SA marks Teen Suicide Prevention Week

You are not alone, help is available.

You are not alone, help is available.

Published Feb 17, 2022

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It is understandable why we need to draw attention to suicide. This week, February 14 to 17, is Teen Suicide Prevention Week. Taking place at the start of the academic year, the aim is to encourage conversation and provide support to parents, teachers and learners.

Why is suicide a leading cause of death among young people? Adolescence can be a time of change and uncertainty. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines adolescence as the transitional phase of growth and development between childhood and adulthood. Adolescents are anyone between the of ages 10 and 19.

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During this time it is normal to feel sad, confused, unsure and scared. When these feelings persist or compounded by adverse life events, it may be detrimental to a person’s mental well-being. This can progress into a mental health disorder. Mental disorders, in particular affective disorders such as depression, are a strong predictor of suicidal behaviour in young people.

What can I do if my child needs help?

The following are adapted suggestions from the SA Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG):

  • If you notice any concerning behavioural changes or warning signs, ask your loved one what is troubling them.
  • Be a willing and active listener and allow expressions of feelings. There is nothing shameful about a person saying they are not coping, feeling unwell, or speaking about suicide. Do not shy away from talking about this.
  • Be non-judgemental. Do not debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether their feelings are good or bad. In the moment it is the most important to let the person know that you care and let them know that they are not alone. Never say, “you have so much to live for” or that “suicide will hurt your family”.
  • Do not be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.

If there is an immediate danger of suicide, do not leave your loved one alone. Get help from people who specialise in crisis intervention or take them to their nearest clinic. If necessary, get in touch with the police.

Help is available. Call the National Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567. This number is free and offers counselling in all 11 official languages.

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