World Mental Health Day: SA Youth in Crisis – SADAG

Photo: The Atlantic

Wednesday the 10th of October is World Mental Health Day and this year’s international theme is Youth and Mental Health. With rising reports of youth suicides, the youngest suicide 6 years old, reported in 2017, in the last month we had reports of several university student suicides, and just last week a 15-year-old boy killed himself. The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) deals with hundreds of calls each day related to youth and mental health – parents, teachers, universities, churches, communities and fellow teens in need of help.

The state of Youth and Mental Health Crisis in South Africa:

  • 31.5% of teen suicide attempts required medical treatment
  • 17.6% of teens had considered attempting suicide
  • 1 in 4 university students had been diagnosed with Depression
  • Over 20% of 18 year olds had one or more suicide attempts
  • According to WHO Half of all mental health conditions start by 14 years of age but most cases are undetected and untreated.
  • Male youth die by suicide more than female youth
  • 1 in 6 teens are/will be addicted to cannabis

Throughout this year, we have heard of more and more university students don’t cope under the pressure and not being able to cope with their problems, which has resulted in many suicides on campus. University students experience Depression, Stress and Anxiety every day without any knowledge they are suffering from a Mental Illness. “Unfortunately this has lead to many suicides which we can’t afford as a caring society. World Mental Health Day is important in spotlighting mental illness and promoting mental wellness for the student population which is a growing vulnerable group.” says Clinical Psychologist and SADAG Board Member, Zamo Mbele.

Depression does not discriminate – and can affect any race, age, gender or religion – It’s important that parents, teachers, grandparents, loved ones and entire communities know that depression can affect young people too, even a 6 year old child. It is important to know the signs and symptoms of depression, the suicide warning signs and how to get help before it is too late.

“From the hundreds of calls that SADAG receives every day, children, teens and young adults are dealing with many problems they feel they can’t handle,” says Operations Director Cassey Chambers. The main triggers include relationship problems, family issues, abuse, loss or grief and trauma. Other contributing factors include exam stress, substance abuse, bullying, learning difficulties, financial issues and chronic illness. “The youth are not equipped with enough coping skills or support structures to handle the kind of problems that they have to deal with every day.”

SADAG is running an online campaign throughout October to eliminate Stigma surrounding Mental Health, and to encourage young people to talk about important topics related to Mental Health. SADAG’s #WhatIf Campaign will focus on social media, follow Facebook (The South African Depression and Anxiety Group) and Twitter (@TheSADAG).

SADAG are highlighting #YouthMentalHealth in various activities throughout the month of October, which include:

  1. Facebook Friday online expert chat on Friday the 12th October from 1pm-2pm and 7pm-8pm
  2. School Talks to learners, teachers and parents about Teen Depression & Suicide Prevention in Diepsloot, Johannesburg, Pretoria, etc.
  3. University wellness talks and events around the country
  4. Uploading an Online Youth Toolkit with helpful articles, videos, resources and self-help tips via
  5. Sharing brochures, handouts, armbands and posters with communities across the country – including Durban, Soweto, Tsakani, Boskruin, Midrand, Nelspruit, Shoshanguve, Mbatho, Klerksdorp, Umkhanyakude District, Port Alfred, Welkom, George, Thabazimbi, etc.

SADAG runs various Helpline that offer free telephonic counselling, information and referrals for people dealing with any mental health issue including stress, 7 days a week:

Suicide Helpline 0800 567 567
24 hour Cipla Mental Health Helpline 0800 456 789
24 hour Substance Abuse Helpline 0800 12 13 14
SMS 31393