Teenage suicide on the increase
The increased levels of trauma, abuse and violence have led many young people to seek security in gangsterism, alcohol and illegal substances, said Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, MEC for Health in the Western Cape, on World Suicide Prevention Day, Sunday 10 September.
"They become reclusive, displaying aggressive and reckless behaviour, and show an increase in suicidal and self-harm tendencies," said Mbombo.
Since 2015, the Western Cape Mental Health Review Board, that considers and reviews all admissions of mental health care users, noted a significant increase in admission of minors with suicidal behaviour.
"In the past year, 30% of the minors who were admitted under the Mental Health Care Act were recorded as a serious risk to themselves, due to self-harm behaviours, suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts and intentions.
“The other significant cause of mental health symptoms among adolescents is substance abuse and use.
“This frequently leads to self-harm and other impulsive, high-risk behaviours," said Dr Rene Nassen, head of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service at Lentegeur Hospital.
Nassen explains that psychiatric and psychological factors such as the presence of mental illnesses, depression, anxiety, drugs and alcohol may cause suicidal behaviour among adolescents.
"Other factors, such as adverse life events and distress caused by family, physical or sexual abuse, as well as bullying, also may lead to suicidal behaviour.
“More recently, cyber-bullying has also been noted as a contributing factor," said Nassen.
Mbombo said that communities play a critical role in suicide prevention. "Communities can provide social support to vulnerable individuals by engaging in follow-up care, fighting stigma and supporting those bereaved by suicide. Stigma attached to mental disorders and suicide means that many people may feel unable to seek help. Let us change this and encourage public dialogue, as suicide can affect us all."
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or displaying suicidal behaviour, please contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group on 0800 12 13 14 (24-hour helpline), 0800 567 567 (suicidal emergencies) or send an SMS to 31393 and someone will call you back.