DBE and SADAG join forces during Teen Suicide Prevention Week

Teen Suicide Prevention Week takes place from 11-18 February annually. As part of an ongoing commitment to mental health advocacy, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) and the DBE join forces to end the stigma associated with suicide and to provide educators, parents and learners with information to identify and prevent teen suicide to foster hope, provide support and equip individuals with essential resources about mental health.

Ms Sibongile Monareng, DBE’s Director for Psychosocial Support (PSS) Services, explained that, “we need to talk about teenage suicide as it has become a prevalent issue in our society. Data indicates that 9% of all deaths are due to suicide and that suicide is the fourth leading cause of death amongst 15 – 29 year olds. The unique challenges that adolescents face can lead to depression, and often, suicide. If these are not addressed, they can extend into adulthood, resulting in a limited ability to lead fulfilling lives”.

She added that, “the DBE firmly believes that schools, through school principals and teachers, are uniquely positioned to implement protective factors, an essential component of suicide prevention efforts. Suicide protective factors also help protect teens from other risk factors such as violence, substance abuse, as well as academic failure. These protective factors are, for example, schools where young people feel physically and emotionally safe both inside and outside of the classroom. Schools that inspire connectedness and inclusion, schools where young people are free from being bullied. Let’s ensure that young people feel free to report any form of emotional distress, and they can be immediately referred to Learner Support Agents (LSAs), School Based Support Teams (SBSTs), school psychologists, and social workers. All suicide threats are taken seriously and ensure that our schools are emotionally safe zones for all our young people”. Advocacy materials such as a teen suicide prevention info pack, as well as a teacher and learner leaflet have been developed for sharing across social media and other platforms.

Ms Monareng encouraged the need to explore practical coping strategies to encourage learners to think about specific actions they can take when intense emotions such as worry or sadness begin: simple relaxation and distraction skills; engaging in favourite activities or hobbies; exercising; compiling a list of people they can turn to; and writing down a list of things they are looking forward to whilst focussing on individual goals.

Adolescents try to find their identity during their teens and inculcate a sense of belonging amongst peers, often becoming involved in social ills or risky sexual behaviour. Social media; sleep deprivation; excess gaming; violence; trauma; and bullying have a lasting impact during this period. Suggestions are for schools to create advocacy during the week by playing a video on teenage suicide in the staff room for teachers to discuss what the school can do or to play a video in the classroom and to facilitate discussions. Each school should develop a suicide prevention plan and facilitate workshops with learners on how to support each other to create emotional safe schools. Social workers, counsellors or psychologists can also be invited to discuss mental health and suicide with learners. Schools could also create an anonymous suggestion box where learners can drop their concerns on PSS issues for discussion.

Having a better understanding of mental health and knowing what resources are available can greatly assist. There is always help, there is always hope. Visit and for additional information and statistics on teen suicide prevention. The SADAG helpline is: 0800 567 567. Also make use of the Lifeline: 0861 322 322.

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