Concerns over teenage suicide

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pretoria - The Ministry of Social Development has expressed concern about the increase in suicide among students in the wake of recent incidents reported in the Eastern Cape. 

After its fortnightly meeting, Cabinet also called on all organs of society to pull out all the stops in assisting "our future generation in dealing with the various challenges."

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini told reporters in Cape Town on Thursday that several ministers would be convening an interdepartmental committee to tackle the problem. Teen suicide is known to be at a higher rate this time of the year as youngsters, especially Grade 12 pupils, battle to deal with pre and post examination stress.

The Eastern Cape Education Department's biannual "Learner Mortality Report" this week painted a disturbing picture of the plight of the province's school children. It revealed that on average, 16 school children have committed suicide in the Eastern Cape every month in the first half of this year. A staggering 109 pupils reportedly took their own lives during 2010. By June this year, 96 pupils had killed themselves. 

When contacted by BuaNews for comment, provincial education spokesperson Zuki Njontina said that there were programmes in place to address the issue. 

About 495 youngsters have been employed across the province to provide peer education and support to 1 800 schools. 

"These programmes are starting to work because we had 146 cases (suicide) in 2007 and last year in terms of our own stats, there has been a gradual decrease. Not so long ago we were praised by teachers in schools that our programmes are starting to show signs of success but we believe that underlying causes such as poverty and HIV should also be addressed," she said. 

Apart from poverty, issues of neglect and peer pressure have been highlighted as the biggest drivers of teen suicide worldwide. Teen suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people aged 15 to 24. 

Dlamini said the interdepartmental committee would also look at setting up a helpline that youngsters can use when in need. 

"What is important to us it to find ways of addressing a problem that is clearly there," she said. - BuaNews 

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