Adolescent suicidal behaviour : a desperate cry for help.
There appears to be a need to demystify suicidal behaviour not just for the benefit of researchers and health workers but equally for parents, teachers and most importantly for adolescents themselves. The focus in this study was on attempting to provide a fresh perspective of adolescent suicidal behaviour by viewing some delinquent and deviant behaviour as possible manifestation of suicidal behaviour and by decoding and making an attempt to understand the non-verbal voices/cries of suicidal adolescents. In general, suicide and suicidal behaviour among adolescents, has received relatively little attention from Education Departments throughout South Africa. Suicide-prevention is also sadly neglected by government and public health authorities. Unfortunately, despite the fact that the phenomenon has become the first cause of death among the younger age groups, with a higher mortality rate than for road accidents, it has not so far managed to provide backing for preventive schemes within the school and community systems of the same magnitude as the ones developed to tackle other public health problems, such as Aids. The purpose of this study was to gain greater insight into the phenomenon of adolescent suicidal behaviour so that a clearer and broader definition (that included both overt and covert behaviour) was formulated. This will then assist, amongst others, educators, parents and adolescents to identify more easily adolescent suicidal behaviour in its various forms . The study also hoped to investigate and identify the factors that could contribute to suicidal behaviour in adolescents. It also hoped to explore what support systems were available and accessible to the adolescents, more especially those manifesting deviant and delinquent forms of suicidal behaviour and to investigate the effectiveness of the support systems. The concept of networking and creating supportive connections is strongly supported when facing problems of suicide and suicidal behaviour. In creating a connection with the parents, teachers are able to better connect with learners because they will be more aware of the stressors that adolescents are experiencing. Since evidence indicates (Snyder, 1971) that potential suicide victims typically turn first to family and everyday friends and to the more traditional and perhaps formal sources such as clergy, psychiatrists, social workers only later, the need for the school to be more ready to play the role of referrer to other established sources of help is apparent. Teachers should not mistake adolescent suicidal behaviour for just delinquent 'brat' behaviour. In many situations adolescent suicidal behaviour becomes a way of communicating with others after all other forms of communication have broken down - when connections with the outer world is tenuous or non-existent. Stigma keeps adolescent suicidal behaviour from being identified as a public health problem that is preventable. This could be the reason (besides financial ones) why the Department of Education has not seen the urgency to strengthen counselling services in schools. In the absence of such support parents, educators and adolescents need to join forces - create a network of connections - both physical and emotional - so that desperate cries of adolescents are heard, interpreted and eliminated.