1 in 4 SA varsity students have been diagnosed with depression

World mental health day
World mental health day

Today is World Mental Health Day and this year’s international theme is Youth and Mental Health.

There is a constant rise in reports of youth suicides, with the youngest one being only 6 years old, reported in 2017. In the last month there were several reports of university student suicides, and just last week a 15-year-old boy took his own life.

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) deals with hundreds of calls each day related to youth and mental health – parents, teachers, universities, churches, communities and fellow teens in need of help.

Do you, your child, spouse or someone else in your family suffer from mental illness? How do you cope? Let us know by emailing us at chatback@Parent24.com and we could publish your comments. Do let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous.

The state of the youth and mental health crisis in South Africa

SADAG has released these figures:

  • 31.5% of teen suicide attempts required medical treatment; 
  • 17.6% of teens had considered attempting suicide; 
  • 1 in 4 university students had been diagnosed with depression; 
  • Over 20% of 18-year-olds had one or more suicide attempts;
  • According to the WHO, half of all mental health conditions start by 14 years of age but most cases are undetected and untreated; 
  • Male youth die by suicide more than female youth; 
  • 1 in 6 teens are/will be addicted to cannabis.

Also see: 13 reasons to talk about teen suicide

Throughout this year we have heard of more and more university students who don't cope under the pressure and aren't able to cope with their problems, which has resulted in many suicides on campus. University students experience depression, stress and anxiety every day – sometimes without any knowledge they are suffering from a mental illness.

Clinical psychologist and SADAG board member Zamo Mbele says, "Unfortunately this has lead to many suicides which we can't afford as a caring society. World Mental Health Day is important in spotlighting mental illness and promoting mental wellness for the student population, which is a growing vulnerable group." 

"Depression does not discriminate" 

Depression does not discriminate – it can affect any race, age, gender or religion. It's important that parents, teachers, grandparents, loved ones and entire communities know that depression can affect young people too, even a 6-year-old child.

It is important to know the signs and symptoms of depression, the suicide warning signs and how to get help before it is too late.

“From the hundreds of calls that SADAG receives every day, children, teens and young adults are dealing with many problems they feel they can't handle,” says operations director Cassey Chambers.

The main triggers include relationship problems, family issues, abuse, loss or grief and trauma. Other contributing factors include exam stress, substance abuse, bullying, learning difficulties, financial issues and chronic illness. “The youth are not equipped with enough coping skills or support structures to handle the kind of problems that they have to deal with every day”, says Chambers.

By creating awareness and information we can educate more people on how to help young people in SA and get them help before it is too late.

Exam stress

“With the matric final exams about to start, as well as all other exams for other grades and at universities – students will be dealing with increased pressure and stress, on top of everything they have been dealing with throughout the year,” says Zamo Mbele.

The old African proverb that says it takes a village to raise a child is no more truer than with mental health now. Empowering teachers, parents, grandparents, churches, friends and family about the issues of youth and mental health is critical if we want to be able to get young people help before it is too late, and help prevent youth suicides.

According to Celebrity and Youth Ambassador, Penny Lebyane, "Mental Health is currently a great challenge for the youth and we need ways to help them understand how the mind works and what help is available. Mental health is where it all starts and can end."  

Every day should be #WorldMentalHealthDay.


Here's a list of Helplines which SADAG runs that offer free telephonic counselling, information and referrals for people dealing with any mental health issue including stress, 7 days a week:

  • Suicide Helpline 0800 567 567 
  • 24 hour Substance Abuse Helpline 0800 12 13 14
  • Dr Reddy's Help Helpline - 0800 21 22 23
  • Pharmadynamics Police &Trauma Helpine - 0800 20 50 26
  • Adcock Ingram Depression and Anxiety Helpline - 0800 70 80 90
  • Destiny Helpline for Youth & Students - 0800 41 42 43
  • ADHD Helpline - 0800 55 44 33
  • 24hr Department of Social Development Substance Abuse helpline - 0800 12 13 14
  • SMS 32312
  • 24hr Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0800 567 567
  • 24hr Cipla Mental Health Helpline - 0800 456 789
  • 24hr University of Cape Town Student Helpline 0800 24 25 26
  • 24hr University of Pretoria Student Careline - 0800 747 747
  • University of the Western Cape After hours Student Helpline - 0800 222 333
  • 24hr Discovery Medical Student Helpline - 0800 323 323
  • Tshwane University of Technology After hours Student Helpline - 0800 687 888

For more information, visit www.sadag.org

Do you, your child, spouse or someone else in your family suffer from mental illness? How do you cope? Let us know by emailing us at chatback@Parent24.com and we could publish your comments. Do let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous.

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