Teenage suicide is a growing concern with one in four teens attempting to take their own lives.

This is according to the South African Depression & Anxiety Group (SADAG).

For Teen Suicide Prevention Week (11 – 18 February), SADAG encourages us to have an honest conversation about mental health.

Why are children killing themselves?

The year has only just begun and already an eight-year-old girl has taken her own life in Durban.

Towards the end of last year, a six-year-old boy was found hanging in a school bathroom in Seshego. Soon afterwards, a 12-year-old girl hung herself, while a 19-year-old woman reportedly jumped to her death in Johannesburg.

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Not only are these reports heartbreaking, but they highlight that these are our children and teens in desperate need of mental health care.

The troubled teen years

Being a teenager is challenging in itself, and teens often experience huge emotional changes.

Teens start high school, form new relationships, deal with peer pressure, academic stress and societal pressures and family problems.

But what makes them crack?

“Teen suicide is, for the most part, an impulsive act by a teenager who is very likely to be struggling with probably multiple issues in their personal, family or school life. The impulsive act occurs in response to a stressor that is just one too much for an adolescent to deal with,” says Dr Helen Clark, a psychiatrist who works with children and adolescents in Johannesburg.

For Teen Suicide Prevention Week (11 – 18 February), SADAG will be visiting various schools around the country with the message that “Suicide shouldn’t be a Secret”.

Each school talk will reach up to 1 500 teens and provide them with brochures and wristbands with the emergency numbers.

Related: Spotlight on teen depression: The warning signs and how parents can help

Leaning on friends

“Adolescents who are having thoughts of a suicidal nature will rarely tell their parents. They are more likely to tell their friends. It is important in Teen Suicide Prevention to access adolescents e.g. through schools to discuss what they should do if a friend tells them something of this nature,” says Dr Clarke.

SADAG will also be hosting two live Facebook chats on Friday, 16 February, at 1 pm with Educational Psychologist, Tshepiso Matentjie and at 7 pm with Psychologist Cindy van Wyk.

Join in, go the Facebook Page: The South African Depression and Anxiety Group.

SADAG runs the only Suicide Crisis Helpline, which can be reached at 0800 567 567

For more information, visit www.sadag.org

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.