Updated 20 February 2015

1 in 5 SA teens just want to die

South African teens are feeling so hopeless that 1 in 5 has attempted suicide, with hanging being the most frequent method used. Here are the warning signs.


All threats of suicide should be taken seriously, said the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag), marking Teen Suicide Prevention Week that runs from 14 - 21 February.

"Teen Suicide Prevention Week is a campaign aimed at promoting and creating awareness around teen depression and suicide prevention," Sadag said in a statement on Tuesday.

"We run the only Suicide Crisis Centre in South Africa and offer support, counselling, information and referrals to those who are feeling depressed and or who are thinking about suicide."

Read: Why Soweto school children want to give up on life

Sadag will be visiting schools across the country to educate teens and teachers by helping them to identify the symptoms of depression in themselves and their friends as well as the warning signs of suicide.

The organisation will also be hosting a Facebook Friday online chat on 20 February at 13:00 with suicide survivor Daryl Brown and psychologist Zamo Mbele.

At 19:00 Brown and psychiatrist Dr Helen Clark who will be answering questions on depressive symptoms, warning signs, how to talk to someone who is feeling suicidal, and where you can get help for yourself or a teen you know.

Sadag revealed the following findings:

- 1 in 5 youths attempts suicide.

- Age 10 - 19 group is one of the highest risk groups for suicide.

- 38.3% felt so hopeless they needed to see a doctor.

- 29.1% had attempted suicide and needed medical treatment.

- 9.5% of all non-natural teen deaths are due to suicide.

- Fewer than 1% of mental hospital beds are allocated for children and adolescents.

In South African, hanging is the most frequently employed method of suicide, followed by shooting, gasing and burning.

South African Depression & Anxiety Group

Have you ever heard someone say two or more of the following?

- Life isn't worth living.

- My family and friends would be better off without me.

- Next time I'll take enough pills to do the job right.

- Don't worry, I won't be around to deal with that.

- You'll be sorry when I'm gone.

What you can say to help:

- You are not alone in this. I'm here for you.

- I understand you have a real illness and that's what causes these thoughts and feelings.

- You may not believe it now, but the way you're feeling will change.

- I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.

- When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold on for just one more day, hour, and minute – whatever you can manage.

- You are important to me. Your life is important to me.

Risk is greater if a behaviour is new or has increased and if it seems related to a painful event, loss or change.

These signs may mean someone is at risk for suicide:

- Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself.

- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.

- Talking about being a burden to others.

- Sleeping too little or too much.

- Withdrawn or feeling isolated.

- Preoccupation with death.

- Loss of interest in things one cares about.

- Visiting or calling people to say goodbye.

- Making arrangements; setting one's affairs in order.

- Giving things away, such as prized possessions.

- "I won't be in your way much longer."

- "I just can't deal with everything - life's too hard."

- "Nobody understands me – nobody feels the way I do."

Are you feeling down and don't know who to turn to? Get help

 If you are concerned about a teen or yourself, contact Sadag on 0800 567 567 or SMS 31393 or visit

You can ask our CyberShrink a question – it is totally free and he responds within a day

Also read:

Mental illness in SA – are we getting the help we need?

Depression and suicide: SA's unseen killers

Both bullies and victims at higher risk of suicide

The link between sleep and suicide


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Michael Simpson has been a senior psychiatric academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries, having worked at London University in the UK; McMaster University in Canada; Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.; and the University of Natal in South Africa.

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