Teen suicide in the spotlight

28 Feb 2017
28 Feb 2017

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), suicide is the second most common cause of death in teenagers and young adults between 10 and 24 years.

According to WHO, around a million people commit suicide each year, and it is predicted that by 2020 this figure will rise to 1.53 million.

Adolescents and young adults may try to kill themselves for a number of different reasons. Depression, which may include a long-lasting sad mood, thoughts about death, negative thoughts about oneself, and a sense of worthlessness, is one of the most common.

“It is very important for us to remember that suicide is the second biggest killer of teenagers and young adults, even in South Africa,” says Petrus de Vries, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry, and director of the Adolescent Health Research Unit (AHRU) at UCT.

“Also, suicide usually doesn’t just happen out of the blue. There are many teenagers and young adults who may have suicidal thoughts, and if they can access appropriate support, they can be helped,” he says.

Professor Cathy Mathews, co-director of the AHRU adds, “It is really important to point out that suicide can be prevented.”

There is no single strategy to prevent suicide, but the key is for teenagers and young adults to receive individual, group-based or community-based support when they have suicidal thoughts.

Help at hand

In April 2016 UCT introduced the UCT Student Careline to assist students who are dealing with anxiety, depression or other forms of emotional distress.

The line was launched after the university partnered with the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) to offer 24/7 telephonic counselling, advice, referral facilities and general support to individuals facing any mental health challenges, or contemplating suicide. The line also offers support and advice to anyone who is concerned about another person who might be in distress.

It supplements the mental health work of existing UCT services, especially after hours and over weekends. Skilled counsellors support the line and encourage callers to get professional help, to talk to someone they trust, to go to a doctor, or to talk to a church leader.

The UCT Student Careline number is 0800 24 25 26 and is free from a Telkom line. You can also SMS 31393 for a call-me-back.

Suicide prevention week

SADAG is giving teachers, parents and community members the opportunity to get free online help to understand more about teen depression and prevent suicide.

A free Q&A session with top experts will be live on Friday, 24 February 2017, from 13:00 to 14:00 with clinical psychologist and SADAG board member Zamo Mbele and again from 19:00 to 20:00 with psychologist, Candice Cowen.

Both experts will be available for an hour to answer questions on teen depression, preventing suicide, recognising warning signs and where to seek help to prevent suicide.

Facebook users that would like to remain anonymous can send a private message and SADAG will ask on their behalf. To join the chats, like SADAG’s Facebook page.

SADAG has also partnered with Akeso and are hosting a free workshop on Saturday, 25 February 2017, from 09:00 to 11:00 at Akeso Kenilworth Clinic.

The workshop aims to raise awareness on teen suicide prevention and to help identify the symptoms of depression, the warning signs of suicide and how to get help.

Story Chido Mbambe. Photo Supplied.