Suicide: Kids need to know help is available

2018-09-16 17:06

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

“They want to end their pain not realising the pain they’re going to leave behind,” said grieving parents who say they would have fought against all odds to save their son from the clutches of suicide.

Minnesh and Cookie Harichand from Hilton, revealed the tragic events that ended with their 17-year-old son’s death.

“Parents need to listen to their children. We need to stop criticising and let people live,” said Minnesh.

In June 2014, the couple said their lives changed forever when they found their youngest son, Sanveer, hanging from the ceiling.

The image still haunts them, four years later, and while they acknowledged that the tragedy was out of their control, they told Weekend Witness that it is still hard to accept that their son took his own life.

“This hurt us badly. We didn’t see any symptoms. Maybe we looked but we didn’t see … sometimes you look and you don’t see and you listen but you don’t hear,” said Minnesh.

If Sanveer was alive today, he would be 21 years old.

According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag), nine percent of all teen deaths are due to suicide and the figure is going up.

In the 15 to 24 age group, suicide is the second and “fastest growing” cause of death.

“Children as young as seven have committed suicide in South Africa. Every day, 22 people take their lives,” Sadag said.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 800 000 young people commit suicide worldwide each year.

The WHO said these statistics are backed by the high admission rates of young people to mental-health institutions.

The statistics show that young people are most vulnerable and have to deal with many issues.

Sadag said it receives 600 calls every day from people who feel sad, depressed or who have been raped or bullied.

It said there are 23 completed suicides in South Africa every day, and a further 460 attempted suicides every 24 hours.

“One in four South African youths have sad and hopeless feelings,” according to Cassey Chambers, operations director for Sadag, and one in five consider suicide.

“I’ve seen too many unnecessary deaths and it’s because the government is not taking depression in the youth seriously.”

Sadag said 60% of youths with a mental-health disorder do not get the treatment they need and only one percent of mental-health hospital beds are assigned to children.

Chambers said teen suicide is a regular occurrence.

“We receive calls throughout the year. The reason for a teen feeling suicidal is stress or anxiety … They feel suicidal during exam periods, or at the start of the year due to increased pressure, or relationships issues,” she said.

But she said depression is the leading cause of suicide among teenagers.

“Depression doesn’t discriminate. It can affect any race, age, gender or religion, etc.

“We don’t see a major difference in the number of black or white teens who commit suicide. While all research suggests that adolescents are most at risk for suicide, we are also hearing more and more reports of children as young as six. That happened towards the end of last year,” she added.

 Traumatic events

“When people ask us why Sanveer chose suicide we tell them he is the only one who knows,” said Cookie.

“We learn to live without these questions being answered. We can only make assumptions,” she added.

However, Minnesh said two years after their son died, they discovered he had been bullied, which they think may have led to his suicide.

“The bullying happened while he was doing Grade 8 and he got involved in fights. I think all of those things started to affect him and eventually he decided to call it a day.

“He started going to gym regularly and took supplements. From the research we did, we’ve learnt that at that age, you have hormonal changes and the supplements also counter-react.”

“There were no problems with him and he had a comfortable life. It can happen to anybody. It doesn’t choose, race, age or economic status,” he said.

According to Sadag’s Chamber, “Only through educating people across the country about the triggers, signs and symptoms and treatments for depression and suicide can we hope to get people talking and coming forward for help.

“Education is important not only to give parents the tools to recognise suicidal behaviour in their children, but also to deal with a tragedy once it has happened,” she said.


“There’s a stigma about suicide,” said Cookie.

“After Sanveer passed, I had people say that he was possessed by the devil. I thought to myself, he prayed every day and went to a Christian school.

“I want to say to parents in this situation: don’t be affected by those things. It shows people are ignorant about mental ilness,” she said.

“We found him. At 8 am when we checked on him he was fine but by 10 am it was all over.”

She paused, her face reflecting the pain of that memory.

“We were in shock; it was like a bad dream,” added Minnesh.

“I can’t describe the pain … there are no words that can describe child loss,” said Cookie. “I wouldn’t like anyone to experience the pain of losing a child.”

The pair added that they hope their story will save the life of someone else’s son or daughter. “It’s a struggle every day. We think about where we went wrong as parents,” said Cookie, her kind face full of pain.

“In our journey, we have learnt that what he did was of his own choice.

“There are certain things in the world you can’t control. You can plan your life as much as you want to but at the drop of a hat, your whole world can spin the opposite way.

“We questioned God that when there were drug dealers, murderers, and rapists roaming the streets freely, he decided to take our precious son.

“Over time, we have learnt that while God is the source of life, he had nothing to do with the suicide.

“We understand that Sanveer was overcome by his mental state. He didn’t see a way out.”

While feelings of guilt surfaced, Sanveer’s parents said they decided to stop punishing themselves.

“It was a tough journey.

“It took my wife one year to walk out of the door. It took her another year to put her foot in the mall.

“At the first stages of grief, when you are around people and they giggle or laugh it pierces your ears. You can’t stand loud music,” said Minnesh, adding that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We are in a much better space now but we’ve come a long way.

“I can smile and not feel bad anymore. Before this I couldn’t even smile. There are days when you have to deal with it but it’s not as bad as it used to be in the first year,” said Cookie. “We said to ourselves, even if we can save one life we’re prepared to share our story. We are prepared to shed those tears again and again as long as we know we’re going to save somebody.”

In 2015, the couple started Hope, a support group that assists people who have been affected by suicide, to deal with the grief.

“We want the youngsters to know that there is no problem that cannot be solved. If they can’t talk to their parents then they can talk to teachers or a friend or guidance counsellors at school. Our children need to know that it’s okay to feel not okay. When they are sad they need to know that they can talk to somebody.”

 Curse of suicide in South Africa

The Institute for Race Relations (IRR) said that the recent suicides of Professor Bongani Mayosi and Khensani Maseko were the latest marker of a stubborn public health crisis that has been unfolding in slow motion for a generation.

Professor Bongani Mayosi and Rhodes university student Khensani Maseko.

Mayosi’s death rattled the academic community.

It came at a time when treatment for chronic depression and anxiety, often the signs to suicide, has never been more available.

Yet the South African Medical Research Council’s recent Burden Disease study reported a steady and stubborn rise in the national suicide rate, up to 25% since 6 133 were reported in 2012.

The study used post-mortem data to calculate a more accurate estimate compared to Statistics SA’s recent Mortality and Causes of Death report, which estimated that just over 1 000 deaths were due to self-harm, based on death certificates from the Department of Home Affairs.

It is the continuing suicide scourge that has prompted the IRR to call for better suicide prevention and intervention measures to be implemented in schools and in communities.

IRR analyst Tawanda Makombo said suicide is a problem that the country needs to tackle more effectively.

Makombo added that a sense of “hopelessness” or feeling that there were no solutions to life’s difficulties prompted thoughts of suicide.

He noted that, in South Africa, factors such as unemployment and economic hardship, combined with insufficient suicide prevention and intervention services, could be reasons for the country’s high suicide mortality rate.

Recent research by the IRR has revealed that South Africa has the highest rate of suicide mortality compared “to other selected African countries”, such as Botswana, Nigeria, Egypt and Malawi.

South Africa has a suicide mortality rate of 10,9 per 100 000 people; followed by Nigeria at 9,9; then Botswana at 9,7; Malawi at 5,5 and lastly; Egypt at 2,6.

However, the IRR said the suicide rate is lower than that of other African countries, including Angola, Cameroon and Swaziland. 

Suicide Peak Times

Holiday seasons, Sunday evenings, and Monday mornings are among the peak times that suicide occurs, advised Durban-based psychologist Claire Newton.

“In South Africa, it is usually towards the end of the year — when suicidal behaviour is linked to examination stress and pressure.

“Students want to get into university, or complete their degrees. At the beginning of the year, it’s usually linked to the high unemployment rate and associated economic pressures,” said Newton.

She said there are also peak periods around seasons like Christmas. “People are reminded of the happiness of others, while they are lonely and feel hopeless.

“Around this time, people often relive past experiences. They often think about previous Christmases which can cause more problems.

“Any celebrations or special days, like a birthday, or the anniversary of the death of a loved one, can also be reminders that trigger suicidal feelings,” she said.

Pietermaritzburg-based psychiatrist and Love to Live director Dan Moodley said other triggers include unemployment, economic instability, violence, a lack of social cohesion, the breakdown of traditional family structures as well as school-related pressures and bullying.

“Bullying is a major problem at the moment.

“In my practice, I attended to a couple of children in the past couple of months who have attempted suicide due to bullying.”

Moodley warned that any suggestion of suicide must be taken seriously.

He said while mental illnesses like depression has always been there, people were becoming more aware of it.

“People are recognising it as an illness that can be treated.

“Now we have teenagers on anti-depressants because they are becoming more comfortable asking for help. The stigma has slowly gone down,” Moodley said.

 Health24 reports that suicide warning signs can be subtle or obvious and could include:

  • talking about suicide, dying or self-harm;
  • being preoccupied with death, for example, writing poems or stories about death;
  • having no hope for the future, feeling trapped and hopeless;
  • feelings of worthlessness, self-hatred, guilt, shame or saying they feel like a burden;
  • getting their affairs in order by drawing up a will or giving away valued possessions;
  • withdrawing from friends and family, and no longer socialising because they prefer to be alone;
  • making unexpected visits or calls to friends and family, and saying goodbye; and
  • if a person displays a sudden sense of calm and happiness after going through an extremely bad depressive episode, it could mean they have decided to attempt suicide.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  suicide

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.