Teenage suicides and depression, a pandemic in South Africa

tats showing that 17,8% of South African teenagers having attempted suicide this year alone. Picture: THYS DULLAART

tats showing that 17,8% of South African teenagers having attempted suicide this year alone. Picture: THYS DULLAART

Published Oct 7, 2023


The high number of teenage suicides in South Africa is a pandemic according to clinical psychologists this Depression Awareness Month.

Kerry Rudman, from Brain Harmonics, a Neuro feedback organisation specialising in retraining brains, said the number of clients she has seen after Covid 19, who are experiencing depression and anxiety, has risen substantially and more alarmingly.

“Many of the teenagers that we are helping find it very difficult to express their feelings and emotions to their parents, which makes neuro feedback a great alternative as they don’t have to talk about what they are experiencing when we rebalance their brain.”

Rudman said one of the biggest challenges from a teenager's perspective is explaining what depression is.

“Many adults will ask depressed young people questions like, 'Are you still depressed?’ as if depression magically goes away. One cannot explain depression unless you’ve experienced it,” she said.

Rudman said depression among young people is exacerbated by social media and by various medications that can be found around the house.

“Our research has shown that many young people commit suicide by overdosing, and this usually happens by them drinking and swallowing any medication they see lying around the house.”

She said that many parents themselves are depressed, and are unaware of it.

Rudman encouraged matriculants who are preparing for exams to have healthy sleeping habits, interact with their friends during their study breaks and to adapt healthy study habits.

Dr Khosi Jiyane, a clinical psychologist, said current South African data showed that more than 40 young children in Gauteng have died by suicide, with additional stats showing that 17,8% of South African teenagers having attempted suicide this year alone.

“We cannot ignore the crises the country is facing. There’s high levels of unemployment, the economy is unstable, and there is high teenage pregnancy prevalence. These have a ripple effect on young people,” she said.

Jiyane said that the majority of teenagers presently were born through teenage pregnancies themselves and were likely born to depressed mothers.

“Many teenagers have been born into depressive situations and environments since birth. They inherently adopt a depressive nature themselves and become depressed teenagers due to their environments,” she said.

Bronagh Hammond, from WCED, advised matrics on the upcoming matric final exams and said: “Exams are stressful, even for people who have worked hard consistently throughout the year. Having to revise a greater volume of information and possibly not understanding the course material can add to stress levels. Some learners may use this stress to help them to stay motivated and focused on their work, while others feel overwhelmed, confused, exhausted and anxious.

“Schools provide the first level of support when dealing with stress. Principals and their staff will be on the lookout for anyone needing special support. Candidates can phone the WCED's Safe Schools Call Centre if they need to talk about their anxiety. The number is 0800 45 46 47.

“We also encourage candidates to follow their ‘’Tips for Success’’ booklet carefully. The WCED issued the booklet to all matrics. The booklet provides extensive guidelines on how to plan study time and how to prepare for the exams in each subject. Good preparation will help to reduce anxiety enormously.

“Our school psychologists, social workers in every district and circuit are on standby to provide counselling support, as required. Parents and candidates can speak to their school principal if the candidates concerned need special support. They can also phone our Safe Schools Call Centre.”