Parents and guardians are not active in their kids lives due to late shifts; double jobs. This absenteeism of parents has a major impact on the lives of these children as children need attention and nurturing to develop emotionally. Tawanda Makambo, an IRR Analysist sates that the high unemployment rates and economic hardships that is faced by many South Africans (the unempployment rate is at 27.6%) are factors which result in suicide. This affects the younger generation as many young adults have completed their tertiary education and cannot find work. With 55.5% of South Africa’s population living below the breadline, 49.2% live in poverty. The cycle of poverty contributes to suicide as many cannot afford treatment and treatment for mental health is expensive. The youth, which are South Africa’s future, are killing themselves at extremley alarming rates. According to the World Health Organisation, the second highest cause of death for the youth (aged 15 to 29) is suicide.
Why am I passionate? I had friends who had committed suicide, and the worst part is that I knew that they were depressed and I didn’t act upon my knowledge. However, it was too late. I’ve also been a victim, first-hand, to attempted suicide. And it’s a very difficult to speak about because it is a very fragile topic. Whilst hospitalised I had met adolescents who had faced similar problems. Eight- year-old kids were diagnosed with bulimia-nervosa. There were waiting lists for available beds, I was twelfth on the list. (it is stipulated by the SADAG that there is only 1% of beds allocated to children in mental health intistutions). This shows that there is a growing number of adolescents with mental health issues. Poor mental health does not affect a particular race, gender or culture. It affects every and anybody.
Culturally, many families turn a blind eye to their kids due to the negetive stigma created by society on mental health. As with new eras comes a change in ideas. The negetive stigma surrounding mental health is slowly diminishing however suicide rates are still rising.
Social Media is a tool that has paved the way for people to come forth, challenge and speak about their mental health. The Teenage Depression Culture: this movement is pro-mental health. Those involved romanticise mental health by posting: images of self-harm and urging people to harm themselves, online.
Recently there has been a spark of Pro-Ana accounts. Where eating disorder sufferers post what they call “inspirational” images and essays for their followers who also have similar eating disorders. Ultimately, they urge each other to hurt themselves, they promote their pain and, sadly, more and more people fall prey to this trap.effects of her eating disorder and how she eventually sought help. This movie is inspirational yet triggering. There is an important part of the story, which I’d like to draw your attention to. This is where Ellen had a Tumblr account and, on this account, she posted images of her artwork which depicted anorexia and “darkness”. The content had drawn a girl to commit suicide. The family of the deceased did not blame Ellen, but she had to deal with her guilt. Even though this is a fictional story, it is a realistic one in terms of how Collins had accurately displayed her disorder etc. but this does show the effect of these Pro-mental health accounts.
Bullying is found in the confines of the workplace, marriages, schools etc. however I would like to focus on school. Bullying can be defined as a subtle and maliscious way of hurting the victime, mentally and emotionally or forcefully abusing the vitim, physically. Ongoing harrassment and abuse will torment the mind, especially of a school-goer. There is this saying where you can “die twice, once mentally and eventually physically.” The victims, students, will suffer with concentration problems, rejection and isolation especially from social events. This leads to the bottling-up of emotions eventually resulting in three outcomes, an outlet, mainly negetive, is formed, “throwing-in-the-towel”, giving up which leads to suicide and lastly, for the rest of the student’s life, will they face challenges as research shows that years after bullying, victims have a higher risk of developing depression and self-image issues.
Childhood abuse is a factor that leads to suicide. Out of all the reported child abuse cases, 8% are due to parents emotionally abusing their kids. The trauma faced by children leads to mental health issues such as behavioural problems, anxiety, and suicide. Janine Shamos, a senior council of SADAG had stated that even though there aren’t any marks or bruises on the kids bodies, but there is still pain and trauma..The SADAG has played a major role in the awareness and prevention of mental health. SADAG recieves 600 calls everyday and this varies from discussions about bullying, rape, stress and anxiety. SADAG had done an investigation and has discovered that 60% of these callers do not receive any treatment. According to the Government’s budget for 2018/2019, they have allocated R184 000 000 specifically to NGO’s focusing on helping those with mental health. Children in orphanages often do not receive any mental health treatment.
I have experience. I know the “do’s and don’ts” in terms of how people feel when coming-out to others about mental health issues, ideally do not force the issue. No pressure. I’m approachable and wise, in the sense that I’m constantly aware of what needs to be said in certain situations, I’m as they say “good with words” and this will help with talking people through difficult situations. I’ve realised that these qualities link with the trauma that I have faced in the past. Trauma can either break or make you, or both. It depends on how you use it to work in your favour. All of this passion I have toward helping people manage their mental health stems from my past experiences. What I’ve realised that “time and talk” heals quite a lot. Patience and listening skills are needed to actually understand what someone is going through, mentally.
And maybe that’s my “Superpower”, through experience I have gained life-long qualities such as: listening and not just “hearing”, analysing people in terms of body language, tone of voice in order to understand them.What many young activists have taken to are online partitions. And that is how I wish to convey my message of eliminating the Teenage Depression Culture. In order to stop the romanticising of mental health and prevent suicides.
Parents and schools should introduce, to their students and kids, at the age of 8 or 9 the subject of mental health and how important it is to always express your emotions in a safe environment with trustworthy people. Actual documentaries explaining mental health to adolescents are important this, should be taught and focused on at school. These documentaries could be used for educational purposes however snippets of important parts can be played on public transports and heard on the radio. East Coast Radio is an avid supporter of mental health awareness. They do partake in mental health awareness week and specific “walks and running campaigns for specific causes dedicated to medical issues.
What I think would be a great idea are road signs. Recently we have seen the homeless begging on the street but they draw attention to themselves through quirky jokes. This campaign could pay these homeless men to carry posters (image A). As hundreds of cars drive past, they will know what the suicide hotline or the domestic abuse hotline is, even just a friendly reminder “be safe and love yourself”
The small, business cards (image B) would be handed to cars as they stop at the traffic signals, schools can issue these cards to their students and, at first, smaller businesses can hand the cards to the customers along with the till slip. In magazines there used to be a section called “Agony Aunt”. This campaign will create a website dedicated to the idea of the “Agony Aunt”. Where people will send through their concerns or rants about how upset they are and we will have people that respond to them, anonymously. The campaign would have to keep a constant track of statistics regarding the suicide rates of the country which is constantly updated through reporst by the SADAG and the WHO, as well as continuously update the information of the cards and posters. The campaign will also ensure that we are successful through the use of our facilities, our facilities as in the methods in which we use to aid this cause, i.e. checking to see whether our facilities are being used optimally; whether the members that are in-charge of the funds are not being unethical by stealing the money.
The campaign would have to strike a deal with the homeless men and women at the traffic signals in order to hold the signs as well as ask for permission to stick signs onto the lampposts and walls. However, the campaign would target schools, mostly. As I feel this is where the campaign would help adolescents the most.
Thinking about this project, practically, I cannot pursue it immediately as I’m in the midst of my matric exams however, during the holidays the campaign could begin. But it would be only a start. In the future I would like to be a psychologist. And once achieving my degree and receiving funds (this campaign is not costly) to support my campaign. But to also gain enough knowledge and even more experience to know what I’m dealing with in terms of running a campaign, a business. And with the degree I can, personally, help with more than one aspect. Once this campaign begins, I will try my best to sustain it till it moves on to my successor, however it would be never-ending.
This campaign is most likely to succeed because it is, cost effective (financially), it is a viable and practical solution to help prevent suicide and to create awareness of mental health within our country. More especially, this campaign, shows that the youth is taking advantage of their newer resources available to them (social media, posters, job creation) and using it to make a difference.