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The South African Depression and Anxiety Group’s (SADAG) aim for Teen Suicide Prevention Week (12-19 February 2023) is to help parents, loved ones, family, friends, teachers, and guardians to do a Mental Health ‘Check In’ with Teens.
Checking In with a teen could literally save a life.
There have been several Teen Suicides across the country recently, as young as 10-years-old of a young girl in KZN, another 10-year-old girl in Gauteng, 17-year-old pupil from KZN, and another 17-year-old boy who died by Suicide in Soweto, these are just some of the cases we have been made aware of in the last few weeks.
There are many more cases just like these that haven’t been reported, an important reminder that Mental Health is still stigmatized and shamed. The symptoms linked with Depression and Anxiety are so vast that they often go unnoticed until it’s too late. Many teens are dealing with a variety of difficulties including relationship problems, trauma, Depression, loss, bullying and family struggles – these problems often combine to make a teen feel overwhelmed, helpless and hopeless.
Teens often feel guilty and don’t want to burden their friends or family with their problems, making the need to do regular Check In’s even more important.
There is still a lot of stigma and fear around Suicide, many parents and teachers are afraid that if they talk about Suicide to teens that it could cause them to take their life. SADAG’s Board Deputy Chairman and Clinical Psychologist, Zamo Mbele, explains, “Research shows that talking about Suicide with a young person DOES NOT cause them to have thoughts of Suicide or wanting to end their lives. However, the danger comes from NOT talking about it, which can lead to thoughts of Suicide turning into actions.”
“Talking about Suicide and Depression creates an opportunity to discuss feelings and thoughts that might have remained hidden. Most teens who are thinking about Suicide are in fact honest and relieved when asked direct questions about their Suicidal thoughts or feelings. Informing and empowering parents and teachers about how to have these conversations with teens is the first step to preventing Teen Suicide.”
“You can do these Check-Ins anytime during the day – Normalise having these chats during everyday activities; while driving to school, when you’re preparing meals, waiting in a queue, or going for a walk outside. It doesn’t have to be a scary conversation, and the more you incorporate them into your day-to-day, the more you make these conversations more natural and less like a serious family meeting. Teens will then learn that talking about their feelings is normal and okay, and that you are a safe space to talk about their emotions,” says SADAG Operations Director, Cassey Chambers.
Some conversation starters to Check-In with your children:
▪ What did you do today that made you feel good?
▪ What are you looking forward to in the next few days?
▪ What are you thinking about the most right now?
▪ Who did you have a really good conversation with today?
▪ Is there something that is upsetting or bothering you right now?