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Demons of suicide haunt Gauteng schools

Yet another learner from Tsakane, Brakpan, is fighting for his life after attempting to commit suicide. Picture: Pixabay.

Yet another learner from Tsakane, Brakpan, is fighting for his life after attempting to commit suicide. Picture: Pixabay.

Published Aug 28, 2023


Johannesburg - Yet another learner from Tsakane, Brakpan, is fighting for his life after attempting to commit suicide yesterday.

According to reports, the learner was rushed to hospital.

Gauteng Education MEC Matome Chiloane said yesterday that the department would convene a summit to deal with mental health issues.

“We will have a summit to deal specifically with mental health issues in schools and the type of support and interventions that we will put in our schools,” he said.

Recently, the department expressed concern about suicide incidents at Tsakane Secondary School in Brakpan. Two learners and a staff member took their own lives by consuming poison.

Another learner is in hospital after he drank poison at school in a failed suicide attempt.

It is also reported that other learners attempted to commit suicide by consuming tablets. They survived and were taken to a hospital.

Last week, a video went viral showing learners crying and some collapsing as they learnt about the suicide incidents at the school.

The learners and staff are receiving counselling after many admitted that they were traumatised.

The CEO of the Pholosong Regional Hospital in Tsakane, Dr Nthabiseng Makgana, expressed concern over the rising number of suicides and suicide attempts in the Brakpan township.

Makgana said 42 people were admitted to the health facility in June after attempting to take their lives.

She said the victims were men and women as well as minors.

Makgana was speaking during a parents’ meeting at Tsakane Secondary School yesterday.

“On average, at Pholosong, we admit old and young people who try to kill themselves. We admit about 40 people a month. In June, we admitted 42 people: 25 were females, 17 were males, and 11 were under the age of 18. That’s a lot,” said Makgana.

She said there was an instance where there was a spiritual aspect.

“Maybe children feel like they can’t talk. Maybe as a parent, I am dismissing you, or it’s difficult to open up,” she said.

Makgana said people should go back to the basics and practise the principles of respect, love and Ubuntu.

She quoted an African proverb: A child is raised by the village.

“If one child attempts to kill themselves, it is the village’s responsibility,” said Makgana.

The grandmother of a learner from Tsakane Secondary School who recently passed on said she never noticed any signs that her grandchild was not well.

“She used to go to visit her mother, and two months ago her mother told me that she wanted to live with her daughter. I said ‘no problem’ because it was her child, and indeed she took her. From there, I don’t know what happened. The mother told me that her daughter complained about stomach cramps. She consumed rat poison,” said the grandmother.

A Gauteng mother said she found her son attempting to commit suicide two weeks ago. “I walked into my home and found my son preparing a rope to use in his quest to end his life. I managed to stop him. I worry about him because he does not talk or discuss what is bothering him,” she said.

The director and clinical director of the Teddy Bear Foundation, Dr Shaheda Omar, said learners needed to be given skills and the opportunity to learn to problem-solve.

“I think often the challenge is when the children are faced with multiple stresses. If we reflect on Covid-19 and the challenges from that, we should look at the impact of load shedding, the effects of unemployment and poverty, and how they affect children. Not knowing what to do and how to reach out – I think these are the concerns, and often peer pressure,” said Omar.

She said with the advent of technology, children were bombarded with so much violence and so many challenges that they were not able to find themselves in a position to process everything they were faced with.

The SA Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) earlier this year said there had been several suicides among teens across the country, as well as a 10-year-old girl in KwaZulu-Natal and another 10-year-old girl in Gauteng.

The group said many more cases had not been reported, a reminder that mental health was still stigmatised.

Sadag said the symptoms linked to depression and anxiety were so vast that they often went unnoticed until it was too late.

Many teens were dealing with a variety of difficulties, including relationship problems, trauma, depression, loss, bullying and family struggles.

These problems often combine to make a teen feel overwhelmed, helpless and hopeless.

The group said teens often felt guilty and didn’t want to burden their friends or family with their problems.

“Take every suicide mention, threat, or attempt seriously,” said Sadag director Cassey Chambers.

If you, your teen or a loved one is feeling hopeless, alone, or having recurring thoughts of suicide or death, contact Sadag’s toll-free 24-hour Suicide Helpline at 0800 567 567. To chat online, WhatsApp a counsellor on 076 882 2775 (8am–5pm) or SMS 31393 and a counsellor will call back. Or visit for more resources.

The Star

Related Topics:

Mental Health