Kids who choose death
Hundreds of schoolchildren are taking their own lives each year.
Imagine 479 children standing in a group. Enough kids to fill even a large school hall. Even more so if you imagine them lying in coffins. In 2009, that’s how many schoolchildren took their own lives, according to a report.

The Annual Surveys for Ordinary Schools report for 2009/10 has some chilling figures. Apart from the shocking pregnancy rates amongst school kids in SA, mortality rates amongst pupils are listed, and broken down into these categories:

In 2009, a total of 11, 113 pupils died.
  • Accident: 2,428
  • Illness: 7,633
  • Violence and homicide: 573
  • Suicide: 479
The mortality rate for kids is up from 10,584 in 2008.

Accidents are mostly related to accidents on the road, whether as passengers or pedestrians, and road-safety discussions and seatbelts would obviously help to reduce this figure. Illness mortality rates have also shot up from 6,970 the previous year.

While violence and homicide deaths have come down from 582, that figure is clearly way too high, and is indicative of widespread social malaise (domestic violence) as well as crime.

Suicide watch

There’s pressure on kids. It’s clear that they are not expressing their anger, fear, helplessness, loneliness and frustration in appropriate ways, and that the hopelessness they experience is driving them to either choose to end their lives rather than face life.

Some suicidal kids may display behaviour which offers clues about their psychological wellbeing, while others may not give any outward indication that they are inwardly battling.

According to Lili Radloff, these are some things to look out for in your child:

“Depression in minors manifests differently. Irritability, anxiousness, aggression and temper tantrums are all indications of a possible depressive disorder. The biggest clue is a sudden change in behaviour. If a difficult child suddenly becomes sleepy and lethargic, or a cheerful child suddenly becomes morbid or irritable, you should seek professional help.”
She goes on, “Research has proven over and over again that medication in conjunction with psychotherapy (especially cognitive behaviour therapy) is more effective than the one or the other.”

There are resources available, though. Girls and Boys Town offers professional counselling for adults and children in crisis, and has a hotline to assist with these kinds of issues, according to their website: “Trained counsellors are on hand to help you solve problems with your son or daughter, whether it is disobedience, rebelliousness or discipline issues ... use of drugs, alcohol or under-age smoking , dishonesty, gangsterism or violence, difficult family relationships or problems caused by divorce or remarriage.”

Here are some numbers you can call if you are concerned that your child may be depressed or suicidal:
  • Girls and Boys Town hotline: 0861 585858
  • Lifeline: 0800 012320
  • Childline: 08000 55555
  • Famsa: Counselling for families: 021 447 0170 or if you are in the Western Cape.
  • Suicide Helpline - 0800 567 567
It’s possible that, as parents, we can continue to see the suicide rate amongst our children drop as we learn how to communicate, and keep our eyes open for the danger signs.

Why do you think kids choose to take their own lives?

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