Today (October 10) is World Mental Health Day and this year teen suicides are being highlighted with the focus on teenagers and young adults.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), depression is globally the third highest disease burden among adolescents, and suicide the second leading cause of death in 15 to 29-year-olds, while the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) states that nine per cent of teenage deaths in the country are due to suicide.
The City of Ekurhuleni’s acting manager for acute and chronic care, Patrick Magodzho encouraged people not to suffer in silence and seek help as soon as possible.
“Mental health is not only limited to hallucination or schizophrenia, which is mostly mental illness at its advanced stage,” Magodzho said.
“But it also includes mild mental health problems that most people suffer from without even being aware of or displaying easily noticeable behaviour traits.
“This makes it even more important for people to start having open conversations about mental health and even visit local clinics for mental screening.”
All primary healthcare facilities in the City of Ekurhuleni offer screening services for mental health.
After the screening process by a professional nurse, based on the needs identified, an appropriate referral is made to a facility which renders secondary mental health care.
A secondary mental health care level means that there is a Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) that consists of a psychologist, psychiatrist, social workers, occupational therapists and physiotherapists to assist the patient.
At this level, further assessment will be done and the outcomes will determine the appropriate management or interventions to be applied to assist the patient.
The programme for psychologists offered in clinics across the City of Ekurhuleni is managed and monitored by the staff from the Gauteng Department of Health.
Dr Sebolelo Seape, the chairperson of the Psychiatry Management Group (PsychMG), explained the prevention of teen suicides starts with a better understanding of the symptoms of depression.
“Most people with depression are not suicidal, but most suicidal people are depressed,” Seape pointed out.
According to Seape, the causes of depression and related mental illnesses in teenagers and young adults are multi-faceted.
Warning signs and symptoms could include:
• Changes in eating and sleeping habits.
• Loss of interest in usual activities.
• Neglect of personal appearance or hygiene.
• Withdrawal from friends and family.
• Running away from home.
“Some teenagers may actually pass verbal hints by talking about death and dying directly or indirectly. They may talk about wanting to die and begin to dispose of much-loved possessions, and they may write a suicide note,” said Seape.
“All threats of suicide must be taken seriously,” she warned.
“Don’t try to argue them out of suicide and avoid guilt-inducing statements like ‘suicide will hurt your family’.
“Rather let them know that you care and want to understand, that they are not alone, and that problems and suicidal feelings are temporary, that depression can be treated and problems can be solved.”
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