As the matric class of 2020 await their matric results, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) encourages parents, teachers and family members to know the warning signs of depression and suicide, and to reach out for help as soon as possible. You may know of someone who has lost a loved one due to suicide or you may have lost a dear one yourself.
“There is a myth that depression or suicide does not affect teens or children, in fact it is very real and affects more young people than we know, with teens being a particular high risk for suicide. Depression is the leading cause of suicide, it doesn’t discriminate against age, gender, race, religion or socio-economic background,” says psychiatrist and Sadag board chairperson, Dr Frans Korb.
According to the World Health Organization, suicide is the third leading cause of death in teens aged 15 to 19, and depression is globally the third highest disease burden among adolescents. In South Africa, suicide has become the second leading cause of deaths between the ages of 15 and 24.
Sadag has seen an increase in the number of calls to the suicide helpline and believes that now more than ever, parents need to connect and engage with their children by asking questions without being judgemental. Listen to understand, get to know what is happening in teens lives, and what they are feeling and thinking.
If you notice a strange behaviour pattern or any of the warning signs for depression or suicide, speak up before it is too late.
Teen Suicide Prevention Week is from February 14 to 21, and will once again highlight and create an awareness around teen depression and suicide, especially with pandemic-anxiety and the release of matric results. There is still a lot of stigma and fear around suicide, with many parents and teachers afraid that if they talk about suicide to teens, it could cause them to take their life.
However, Sadag’s operations director, Cassey Chambers, believes that talking about suicide with a young person does not cause them to have thoughts of suicide or kill themselves, but not talking about it can lead to thoughts of suicide turning into actions.
“Talking about suicide and depression creates an opportunity to discuss feelings and thoughts that might have otherwise remain hidden. Most teens who are thinking about suicide are actually honest and relieved when asked direct questions about their suicide thoughts or feelings. Even if you notice one warning sign, don’t wait or leave it. Talk today, listen and connect to help – it could save a life,” says Chambers.
Here are some of the warning signs to look out for:
- Your teen is talking about suicide or death – possibly writing or drawing about death and dying, or posting pictures, quotes or messages on social media.
- Saying things like: “Everyone would be better off if I was dead” or “I wish I wasn’t here anymore” or “I don’t want to be here anymore”.
- Giving away personal possessions.
- Signs of depression such as moodiness, hopelessness, withdrawal, drastic change in appetite and sleep, and loss of interest in usual activities.
- Behavioural changes and taking excessive risks.
- Increased alcohol and/or other drug use.
If you or someone you know is at risk, reach out to Sadag or call the Suicide Crisis line on 0800 567 567 or Sadag Mental Health line on 011 234 4837. Sadag will host two free online Connect Webinars – one for teachers on February 24 at 3.30pm and one for parents on February 25 at 1pm.
Experts will unpack how to identify warning signs of teen depression and suicide at home and in the classroom, self-help tips to deal with depression, how to talk about suicide with a teen, developing a suicide safety plan, and how to connect to help.
Visit www.sadag.org for more details about the free Connect Webinars and RSVP for your free seat today.