18 February 2011

How to curb the increase in teen suicides

More South African teenagers are committing suicide, and the average age of those taking their own lives is decreasing. We focus on this tragic phenomenon, and how to prevent it.

Suicide among children and adolescents in South Africa is on the increase and children as young as 10 years old have committed suicide.

According to Schlebusch, approximately six to eight thousand people commit suicide in South Africa every year, making suicide the third greatest cause of unnatural death in the country after homicide and unintentional causes. On average 9% of deaths in young people, especially black youth, in South Africa are due to suicide. This is almost as high as adult suicide rates. Approximately one third of all patients admitted to hospital after attempted suicide, are children or teens.

  • academic-related problems, such as poor school performance or academic failure
  • incest
  • stress
  • psychological disorders, especially depression
  • interpersonal problems
  • family problems

  • previous suicide attempts
  • substance abuse (especially alcohol abuse) and other psychological disorders
  • exposure to family violence
  • a family member's suicidal behaviour
  • child abuse
  • school-related problems
  • access to firearms

  • Suicide in patients with life-threatening diseases is significant. HIV/Aids patients have a 36 times higher suicide risk as a group than the risk found in the normal population.
  • Black youths are at particular risk. Schlebusch attributes this to significant demands that are made on them educationally and socio-economically and because of high unemployment rates and expectations not being met.

  • Sad, anxious or 'empty' mood
  • Deteriorating school performance
  • Loss of pleasure or interest in social and sports activities
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Changes in weight or appetite

  • Seek professional help (medical or mental health professional)
  • Offer support (listen, avoid undue criticism, remain connected)
  • Become informed (library, local support group, internet)


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