Spotlight: Teen suicide - How to cope


How the family feels after a child commits suicide:

  • When teens do tragically commit suicide, loved ones are left shattered and often don't know what happened or what went wrong.
  • Typically they would wrestle with the question why they didn't notice the signs.
  • Family members tend to have strong guilt feelings when a teenage child commits suicide.
  • They experience intense emotional pain and a feeling of hopelessness.
  • More often than not, parents are angry with themselves and with God.
  • They also go through a shock phase, especially during the first two months.
  • Because of the stigma surrounding suicide, family members may also try to hide the fact that it was suicide. This makes the negative feelings and emotions much worse and in their minds they look for somebody to blame.

Coping with suicide in the family:

"To best cope with the death of a teenager because of suicide, it is of utmost importance to talk to someone you can trust and have the necessary understanding.

"Therefore family members should go to a professional person for therapy. Sometimes short-term medication is also needed," advises Marianna Deyzel, social worker at Akeso Clinic.

During the mourning process, it is important to take one day at a time. "Crying is part of the healing process. Parents also need to realise their child will always be a part of them.

"The pain will soften, but they will miss their teen for the rest of their lives, so they must talk about the teen as part of their life.

"Lastly, they must do certain things, especially during the first year following the suicide, such as burning a candle next to a photo and visiting the grave on important days. If there was a cremation, prepare a special place in the garden, plant a tree and put a bench to spend time there.

Most importantly, make peace that you as a parent will never find all the answers," concludes Deyzel.

In the event of a psychological crisis: 

  • Akeso's 24-hour Psychiatric Response Unit: 0861 43 57 87
  • SADAG's 24-hour helpline: 0800 12 13 14
  • SADAG runs the only toll-free suicide crisis helpline in South Africa, which runs from 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week: 0800 567 567 or SMS 31393.

For more suicide information and support:

  • For more information about Akeso Clinic, visit their website or call 011 447 0268.
  • For more information about the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), visit their website.
  • To find a therapist near you visit TherapyRoute.

Also read part one - Spotlight: Teen suicide - 6 things parents need to know

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

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

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