Suicide on the rise among the youth

WITH a recent study by the South African Anxiety and Depression Group (SADAG) revealing alarming statistics which show that nine percent of all deaths among teenagers are due to suicide in South Africa, the Maritzburg Feverspoke to clinical psychologist Abigail Foley in Hayfields to determine why this is so and how to decrease a statistic that is on the rise.


• The age group of between 10-19 is the highest risk group for suicide.

• 38,3% of teens felt so hopeless that they sought help or counselling

• 31,5% have attempted suicide and needed medical treatment.

• 9,5% of all non-natural teen deaths are due to suicide.

• Less than on percent of mental hospital beds are allocated for children and adolescents.

Foley said that depression played a big part in suicide cases: “Depression is a strong predictor for suicide attempts in adolescents.”

She advised to look out for the following warning signs that indicate that your child could actually be depressed:

• Increased irritability or sadness.

• Loss of interest in normal activities. For example, a teenager may no longer be interested in the sports, hobbies or extramural activities that s/he used to enjoy.

• Social withdrawal. For example, a teenager may spend large amounts of time in his/her bedroom, avoid social events or no longer make plans to see friends.

• Changes in school performance. There may be a decline in an adolescent’s school marks or s/he may report difficulties concentrating or studying.

• Sleep disturbances. An adolescent may be up all night, or alternatively, may want to sleep all day and not get out of bed.

• Appetite disturbances. An adolescent may have an increase in appetite or alternatively lose his or her appetite, for example.

• Poor hygiene. An adolescent may lose interest in showering or putting effort into personal grooming.

• Physical complaints. The affected adolescent may have frequent complaints about stomach pains, headaches or fatigue.

• Preoccupation with death. An adolescent may listen to music about death, draw or write about death or talk frequently about it.

Foley emphasised that whether you are a friend, teacher or parent, if you notice any of the above signs, you should take them seriously.

“Talk to the adolescent about it directly, such as by asking if she/he has been feeling sad or having suicidal thoughts. Allow the individual the chance to talk. Always err on the side of caution, and if you continue to feel concerned, contact a qualified psychologist for further evaluation,” stressed Foley.

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