Advice after a teen suicide attempt

There has been an increase in teens reaching out for help with suicidal thoughts.

According to the South African Anxiety and Depression Group (SADAG) they are experiencing an increase in young people calling in for help to the suicide crisis line.

Cassey Chambers, SADAG Operations Director said: “Yes, we have seen an increase in the number of calls to our Suicide Helpline. One in five calls are suicide related or suicide crisis calls, and currently we are getting a total of 2500+ calls to SADAGs helpline every day.

“We are seeing more young people calling us, and many who feel helpless and hopeless.” Even though the statistics look worrying, teen suicide and the prevention thereof is still not talked about enough, says Ms Chambers.

“Teen Suicide is definitely still a taboo topic, many people are too afraid to talk about depression or suicide, especially to their children because it is a difficult topic, we are not taught how to talk about it or what to say, and there is the misconception that talking about “Suicide” will plant the seed.

“However, through global research we know that talking about suicide leads to suicide prevention, it leads to people getting help and support. There is still a lot of stigma associated with suicide, and the belief that teens don’t suffer from depression, but we know that teens are the most at-risk age group for suicide.

“So, suicide amongst teens is a real issue – and the only way to stop suicide is to have more conversations, empower more parents and teachers on how to identify the warning signs and how to get to help,” she says.

The South African Anxiety and Depression Group (Sadag) hosted an interactive Facebook session on Teen Suicide Prevention on Friday February 18, where Clinical Psychologist Liane Lurie spoke about what parents should do when a teen attempted suicide.

Her advice immediately after the attempt for parents is, to assess the lethality of the attempt. “What has your child done or taken? and then seek contact emergency services.

“If you can get your child into the car and to the casualty unit of your nearest hospital as fast as possible. You have to let the medical personnel intervene and then decide on a course of action in terms of what’s going to happen regards to stabilisation.” The emergency teams she says will know the procedures and protocol to be followed. Once the psychiatric assessment and treatment plans are in action, parents need to be prepared.

“Parents need to go home and look at access to medicine cupboards, access to sharp objects, access to weapons and make sure that all of that are locked away and for you as parents it’s not going to be easy. You’re going to need to be on 24-hour suicide watch when your child or adolescent come home and you cannot assume just because they seem to be better, that they are ok.”

She advises parents to undergo trauma debriefing and psycho education to equip them with the skills on how to move forward.

“You have to be on high alert until such time as yourself, together with your child’s treatment team feel that your child is no longer at risk,” Ms Lurie advises.

SADAG has plenty of advisory resources to assist parents, caregivers or relatives to help someone dealing with suicidal thoughts or what not to do and say after a suicidal attempt and what you should say or do.

Visit their website at, or contact them on 0800 21 22 23 or 0800 70 80 90, seven days a week, from 8am to 8pm.