Yesterday I was at Umqhele Secondary School in Ivory Park, Midrand where The South African Depression and Anxiety Group(SADAG) was giving a talk on teen depression and suicide. I went to a few classes and listened to different volunteers give the talks but the one that stood out for me was given by a woman called Bongiwe.
Bongiwe is a 34-year-old qualified Chartered Accountant who volunteers for SADAG. The children were shocked when she confessed that she had gone through severe depression to the point where she spent about two weeks without bathing. She never wanted to leave the house and hated being around people so much she’d get panic attacks. Bongiwe says she attempted suicide three times and has been hospitalized about eight or nine times because of depression.
The sad reality is that most South African black people aren’t thoroughly educated about depression. They refuse to acknowledge it because they view it as a sign of weakness and think it is “un-African”. Most believe that one can just “snap out of it” at their command. Depression is not a sign of weakness, and people with depression cannot just snap out of it. It is refreshing to see initiatives like this one that aim to educate people about this mental illness.
According to SADAG, one in every five teens suffer from depression. It is important for parents, teachers and the teens themselves to know the key signs and symptoms of depression, which include:
-Fatigue and decreased energy
-Hopelessness and/or pessimism
-Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
-Overeating or appetite loss
-Irritability and restlessness
-Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once found pleasurable
Depression is treatable through talk therapy, medication, or a combination of both, said information distributed to the students. Talk therapy can help you understand your depression and talking about how you feel can improve the situation. Medication can be prescribed by a doctor depending on the severity of your depression. Although medication can be helpful, it is not suitable for long-term use. Other treatments like exercise and therapy are just as effective as medication. There are also many mood boosting activities like exercise, music, writing in a diary and hanging out with friends.
Depression is mentioned as the leading cause of suicide. Depressed people feel hopeless and often see no reason to live. Bongiwe gave the kids a lot of scenarios and asked the teens what they would do if their friends were trying to commit suicide. One kid blurted out that she’d say “just do it” in an irritated voice. Interestingly enough, most people believe that people who say they are going to commit suicide are just seeking attention. Bongiwe emphasised that no matter how irritating it may get to hear someone constantly threatening to commit suicide, we should never give up on them as we may be their last hope.
If you suffer from depression or know someone who does, you can call SADAG’s toll free helpline 0800 21 22 23 or 0800 12 13 14 or send an sms to 31393 and SADAG will call you back as soon as a consultant is available.
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feature image from NYDAILYNEWS.