Teen suicide: know the warning signs

Teen suicide: know the warning signs

The loss of a child is every parent’s nightmare, but to have a child take their own life, rather than open up to you about their despair, is utterly devastating. Family is for Life: that means keeping an eye on one another’s mental health…

Losing a child is a pain anyone who isn’t a parent can’t imagine; to lose one to suicide is almost unbearable. Yet in South Africa, as in many other parts of the world, suicide rates are rising – already in 1994, the World Health Organisation declared suicide a global health crisis.

Over the past 15 years, the suicide rate of South African children aged 10-14 years has doubled, according to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group – triggered usually by depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse (which are often symptoms of underlying mental health issues like depression and anxiety), or a sense of hopelessness caused by abusive relationships or grinding poverty.

Accounting for about 60 per cent of all suicides, though, depression is the major culprit – which explains why so many children who take their own lives are not desperately poor, or violently abused. However, depression and the other triggers for suicide can be treated, via a combination of professional therapy with a mental healthcare provider, prescription medication if required, and the constant emotional support of family and loved ones. If you suspect that your child, or any member of your family, is at risk, seek professional help.

Suicide warning signs

A family member displaying any or all of the following behaviours may be a suicide risk:

  • Talking about themselves as hopeless, helpless or worthless.
  • Talking about suicide.
  • A preoccupation with death.
  • Signs of depression – loss of appetite or comfort binge-eating, listlessness, insomnia or excessive sleeping, loss of interest in previously enjoyed pursuits.
  • Recklessness and a tendency to take unnecessary risks; self-destructive behaviour.
  • Visiting or calling everyone that they care about over a short space of time.
  • Out-of-character behaviour.
  • Giving away prized possessions.
  • Setting legal and financial affairs in order.

Feature: Alyn Adams


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