Spotlight: Teen suicide - 6 things parents need to know


South Africans are often confronted with severe incidents of violence and death, but when news breaks about a teen who had committed suicide, it sends shock waves through the community.

Why would budding young people who still have their whole life ahead revert to such a drastic measure? That's the loved ones are left with after such tragedies.

Also read: "I want to kill myself"

1. Teen suicide numbers are increasing

Sadly, teen suicides are on the rise in South Africa, confirms social worker Marianna Deyzel of Akeso Clinic, who engages in extensive training of social workers to deal with the issue of teen suicide.

2. Teens are becoming desensitised to death

"Teens tend to be negatively influenced by other teens when one of them commits suicide. At the same time, today's teens are more used to the fact of death.

"They see it daily on TV and on the TV games they play. Death is an everyday reality in our homes. The word 'death' is not shocking to teens anymore," Deyzel explains.

3. School and social pressures

According to Deyzel, one of the main reasons for teen suicides is the increasing pressure at school, home and among friends.

"Even issues relating to beauty, fashion and physical appearance may put more pressure on teens who tend to be brand conscious and aware of their looks, affecting them negatively."

4. Bullying is a big factor

Then there's also the scourge of bullying at schools and many children do not have the life skills to handle it.

Worldwide, incidences of cyber-bullying including bullying through social media have already led to teen suicides. This most likely will increase as teens increasingly have access to their own phones and computers.

5. Divorce and discipline are triggers too

Another reason is the increase in SA's divorce rate. Teenagers live in broken homes. A parent leaves home and goes on with their life elsewhere; as a result the teenager feels rejection, one of the strongest negative feelings.

"Many times, as a social worker, I've heard a parent say, 'I do not want my child to suffer as my parents were too strict and we were very poor.' Thus there is hardly any discipline and structure in the home.

"To the contrary, some parents are too strict, leaving the teen no personal space. As a result, the teen feels socially isolated and can't handle the situation, opting for suicide as the only way out," Deyzel points out.

6. Alcohol: a crutch and temporary numbing tool

In South Africa, alcohol abuse has become a serious problem, Deyzel adds. "Children growing up in a home where alcohol freely flows are called 'the walking wounded'. They don't trust, talk or feel. The negative suppressed emotions may lead to suicide as there is no hope of any future."

Also read part two - Spotlight: Teen Suicide - What to look out for

Also read part three - Spotlight: Teen Suicide - How to cope

Do you have any experience with teen depression, anxiety or suicide? Share your experience by emailing and we may publish your story. Should you wish to remain anonymous, please let us know.

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