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Mental Health Information Centre - Southern Africa

Teen Suicide Prevention Week 16 – 23 February 2014


Research shows that suicide accounts for 9.5% of non-natural deaths in young people in South Africa. Anyone expressing suicidal thoughts should be taken seriously. A large number of suicides go unreported and many suicides are not recognised as such. Depression carries a high risk of suicide. Young people often feel that they have nowhere to turn to.

Causes/precipitators of suicidal behavior

  • Depression
  • Family problems (unstable family live, violence, abuse)
  • Physical or sexual trauma/abuse
  • High stress levels
  • Interpersonal relationship problems
  • Risky behaviour e.g. substance abuse
  • Poverty, unemployment

Characteristics of adolescents who make suicide attempts

  • Medication overdose is the most common method used
  • High incidence of family pathology and psychiatric disorders
  • History of suicide/suicide attempts in the family
  • Often impulsive
  • Nearly always an immediate precipitant e.g. conflict with parents, breaking up with boy/girlfriend, disciplinary crisis at school

Warning signs

  • Sudden behavioural changes, risk-taking behaviour
  • Depression, feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of guilt, sense of failure
  • Withdrawal
  • Changes in eating/sleeping patterns
  • Pre-occupation with death/dying

What to do

If you are feeling depressed or suicidal, seek immediate help from a health professional. Each suicide attempt requires thorough and professional evaluation and management.

Suicide crisis line: 0800 567 567 or sms 31393
Lifeline Western Cape: 021 461 1111

Contact us for more information:

Mental Health Information Centre of Southern Africa (MHIC)
PO Box 19063, Tygerberg, Cape Town, 7505, South Africa

Tel: +27 (0)21 938-9229
Fax: +27 (0)21 931-4172
Email: mhic@sun.ac.za

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In partnership with:

University of Stellenbosch
South African Medical Research Council
University of Cape Town