SA’s soaring teen suicide rate – how to spot the signs

The link between depression and suicide

There is a major link between depression and suicide, and whereas sadness, loneliness, grief and disappointment are normal reactions to life’s struggles, undiagnosed depression can lead to tragedy.

Up to one third of all suicide victims had attempted suicide previously. Research indicates that although more females attempt suicide, more males succeed. This is due to the more violent methods males choose. Girls are more likely to overdose on medication, or take chemicals, whereas boys often find access to firearms or hang themselves.

Key signs of depression


  • Loss of interest in things they like to do
  • Sadness that won’t go away
  • Irritability or feeling angry a lot

Other signs include:

  • Feeling guilty or hopeless
  • Not enjoying things they once liked
  • Feeling tense or worrying a lot
  • Crying a lot
  • Spending a lot of time alone
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Having low energy or restless feelings
  • Feeling tired a lot
  • Missing school a lot
  • Hard time making decisions
  • Having trouble thinking or paying attention
  • Thinking of dying or killing themself

According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) many teens don’t speak out or get help due to the stigma attached or because they are afraid of being judged.

Children should be educated about teen depression and suicide and empowered to be able to talk to their loved ones and reach out for help.

Get help

Sadag: “It is important to know that if you are feeling depressed or suicidal, you are not alone. There are people who care about you, even if it is a classmate, friend, favourite teacher, principal, family member or even a counsellor at Sadag – we are here to help. Remember that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. You can get help.”

If you are concerned about an adolescent (or adult) at risk of suicide contact the Suicide Crisis Helpline at 0800 567 567 or SMS 31393. The 24-hour helpline can be reached at 0800 12 13 14.


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