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Johannesburg - Satanic groups are increasingly reaching out to vulnerable young people, and their influence is becoming “rampant” in certain communities.

Helen Clark, head of the child and adolescent psychiatric unit at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, said on Wednesday at an SA Depression and Anxiety Group session on teen suicide that she had seen a dramatic increase in her suicidal teen patients reporting being involved in these groups.

She said young people often craved attention, which satanic groups gave them.

“These people sit with you at break, they talk to you, they take you out,” she said.

She said vulnerable teenagers were often not interested in the rituals, but as parents, schools and communities failed to protect and attend to them, they turned to other avenues for support.

In South Africa, 10 percent of non-natural deaths among teens are due to suicide, and a fifth of teenagers say they have considered suicide.

Clark said there had been a dramatic rise in adolescents overdosing on antiretrovirals, to which they had access within their homes.

She said systems such as home life, schools and communities were not giving the protection they should be, and the systems that were meant to protect adolescents were dysfunctional.

“Our families are categorised by loss, by traumatic experiences,” she said.

“Making an attempt on your life has become a form of communication for adolescents, and it’s growing”.

The youngest suicide attempt Clark has dealt with involved an eight-year-old girl who told her that “poverty and lack of food” were her reasons for trying to kill herself.

Clark said even a seemingly minor incident could be the catalyst for vulnerable children to spiral into crisis.

Without an adult or another figure to ask for help, they could quickly begin to feel hopeless and unable to cope.

“Sometimes they say: ‘I thought that if they thought I wanted to die, perhaps they’d see me’,” she said.

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The Star