At least 40 learners and teachers at Gauteng schools have taken their own lives this year.
According to the Gauteng Department of Education, the latest case was an 11-year-old gr. 5 girl at Anzac Primary School in Brakpan who took her own life on Friday.
“This deeply disturbing event highlights the importance of discussing sensitive issues with children and providing them with the necessary support and guidance during difficult times,” says Steve Mabona, spokesperson for the department.
Suicide is a grim reality and one of the leading causes of death among young people. “Learners are faced with a variety of problems that make them feel vulnerable, helpless and overwhelmed. Anxiety, depression, bullying, online abuse, violence and cyberbullying are contributing factors to suicide among learners.”
According to the department, no less than 300 cases of learner deaths have been reported to it since the beginning of the year, including the suicide cases. “We are aware that the deaths have an enormous psychological impact on our learners, teachers and the wider school community. It is therefore imperative that we provide immediate support to those affected and respond in the long term with lasting solutions that can help turn the situation around.”
On Sunday, on World Suicide Prevention Day, the department announced several initiatives to deal with suicide among learners in the province.
This includes, among other things, ongoing support, building resilience, promoting meaningful social connections, creating safe spaces in schools, encouraging disclosure and facilitating referral for further professional support.
In the following months, the department will visit schools together with various organisations, including Kinderlyn and the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag).
Kinderline’s toll-free number, 116, can be contacted for free counseling services for learners and educators. Sadag’s suicide crisis helpline can be contacted on 0800 567 567.