20 February 2007
The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) is to launch the country’s second Teen Suicide Prevention Week, reaching out to young people between the ages of seven and 19.
As such, the group has designed a suicide prevention programme targeted at young people during the ages when they are described as most vulnerable, yet difficult to reach.
Statistics show that more than 5 000 South Africans, many of them as young as 10, will kill themselves before the end of this year if current trends continue. In addition, 9% of all teenage deaths in the country are suicides.
“Alarmingly, one in every twelve adolescents has attempted suicide at least once. All these sound clear warning bells that our children are in crisis,” said Julia Zacharis, Sadag’s general manager.
She added that the Suicide Shouldn’t be a Secret programme is targeted at young people who lack stable homes, role models and for whom finding work seems to be an almost unreachable dream.
“The programme aims to empower teachers, students and parents to become more alert to the signs and symptoms of depression and suicide,” she said.
According to Sadag, children commit suicide for a variety of reasons including extreme poverty, dysfunctional families as a result of abuse and divorce, peer pressure, failure to achieve at school or even serious illness.
Research at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Nelson Mandela School of Medicine has shown that people with HIV and Aids are also 36 times more likely to commit suicide than people without the illness.
To provide better assistance for young people in need, Sadag and Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang launched a toll-free suicide crisis line in 2006.
In addition, the group is also striving to improve mental healthcare in the impoverished rural areas in the Northern Cape and Northwest provinces.
Teen suicide prevention week
During the prevention week, trained counsellors will visit schools and conduct interactive workshops with students regarding the various aspects of depression, suicidal tendencies and assisting those in need.
The highlight of the week will be a visit by retired SA boxing champion, Baby Jake Matlala to Alexandra High School for a presentation on suicide prevention and how friends, parents and teachers can identify the symptoms of severe depression.
“Our anti-suicide project wants to bring the message to teenagers that, if a friend said directly or indirectly that they were planning to kill themselves, they should tell a teacher or parent,” said Zacharis.
She added that it might sound harsh, but Sadag’s message to the youth is that “It is far better to risk a friendship than the life of a friend!”
“If they feel they cannot confide in others, trained counsellors are on hand Monday to Friday from 8am till 8pm, and Saturdays from 8am till 5pm a week on Sadag’s toll-free line,” said Zacharis.
For more information on the Suicide Shouldn’t be a Secret programme, call (011) 783 1474. The toll-free suicide crisis line number is 0800 567 567.