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Adolescent Suicide in South Africa


Many social problems are encountered by different age groups within the society. Among the teens, drugs, suicide, and involvement in social ills like crime are prominent in many societies. Teenage suicide has been identified as a rising concern in South Africa. Suicide refers to the act of intentionally ending one’s life which occurs as a result of emotional and psychological breakdown. A recent research project at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine in South Africa indicates that suicide is on the rise in the country with the youth increasingly attempting or committing suicide as a result of depression (Caruso, para.1).

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It is important to understand that suicide may be a result of an underlying personality that devalues an individual’s self-worth. Most teenagers consider this as the best option to escape the despair and run away from everyday problems which they do not dare to deal with. This area is of particular interest because the youth are the building blocks of society. They are the next crop of leaders, and they form a sufficient workforce to keep economies running. This implies that by youth ending their lives at a young age, society is deprived of a key fabrication to maintain a state of equilibrium.

A psychological theory of suicide

Most of the research that has been advanced on teenage suicide revolves around depression. Emile Durkheim was instrumental in defining the sociological model of different types of suicide. More recent research indicates that teen suicide has been a result of imitation or modeling. Imitation refers to copying behavior that a teenager has observed. An example is newspaper reports of teenage suicide epidemics, imitating movie content, and the like. Suicide is also caused by family problems like divorce, separation, or the death of a family member.

Warning signs of suicide include a sudden inquisitiveness and obsession with death, irrational behavior, an overwhelming sense of guilt, shame and rejection, a drop in school performance, and reduced social skills which indicate withdrawal. Sleeping patterns may also change as well as personality or appearance (Franzese, 2009).

Possible measures to mitigate teenage suicide

Some of the options that can be considered in addressing teenage suicide include community involvement and sensitization in family growth and development and devising group and life therapy forums to accommodate teenagers and address their issues. Rapid response teams like 24-hour hotlines can also be put in place to provide a listening ear and encouragement to teenagers.

Suggested methodology to address teenage suicide

To reduce the rates of teenage suicide among the youth in South Africa, several actions must be taken into consideration. These are based upon the involvement of social structures that make up the community. These include individuals, families, neighborhoods, churches, local administration, and the like. It is the sole responsibility of each of the above to address the issue from the root.

The first step is to define the problem and why it arises. Teenage suicide may occur as a result of many reasons hence it is important to address each of the possible causes individually. The community should work towards identifying any sources of dysfunctionalities that demoralize teenagers to the point where they have to commit suicide. The next step is to enlighten the teenagers on how to deal with these problems. This follows motivational and inspirational talks that are meant to re-instill self-worth and awareness. Suicide is not always the best option. The final step is to design support structures and follow-up methodologies to reinforce the idea of self-worth and sensitize the community on the need to be ‘a brother’s keeper’. Follow-up is key to maintaining change.

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In conclusion, it is important to reignite passion and energy for life among teenagers all over the world. Society has a vital role to play in enforcing ideals that promote self-worth and respect and sanctity of life. It is vital to understand that the real cause, depression, is not a weakness but rather a sickness that treatment can be accessed.


Caruso, K. Suicide on the Rise in South Africa. Web.

Franzese, J. R (2009), The Sociology of Deviance: Differences, Tradition, and Stigma. Charles Thomas Publishers, USA.

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