Research from last year’s  World Health Organisation World Mental Health Survey indicates that one-third of first year university students have a readily diagnosable mental health condition. And the South African context is equally frightening.

Prof Jason Bantjes, from Stellenbosch University, explains that 25% of South African university students have expressed suicide ideation; at least 12% suffer from depression and a further 15% grapple with anxiety.

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) who run the National Toll Free Suicide Crisis Helpline,  take a huge number of calls – as many as  600 crisis  calls a day  from people seeking help – and  a large number of these calls are from teens seeking help for themselves or on behalf of a friend.

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SADAG Operations Director, Cassey Chambers says, “Teens are the most at risk age group for depression and suicide. High school learners struggle to fit in. Many high school learners struggle with relationship issues, bullying, learning difficulties, substance abuse and even family problems.  University students also struggle to cope and this is also for a variety of reasons from family problems, relationships, problems with starting a new semester, a recent trauma, moving away from home to struggling to cope with stress of academics and the pressure of university tests and exams.”

In light of Suicide Prevention Week (11- 18 February) SADAG is offering free online help to  students, parents and whomever needs it.

Join their  free online #FacebookFriday  “Ask the Dr” session on 15 February discussing students and mental health.  The first chat session  runs from 1-2pm with Clinical Psychologist Suntosh Pillay, and again at 7-8pm with Clinical Psychologist Dr Charity Mkone. Facebook Users who would like to remain anonymous can email media@anxiety.org.za and SADAG will email you back. For free telephonic counselling, call 0800 456 789 or send an SMS to 31393 and a counsellor will call you back.

READ MORE: Black women and mental health – are we making enough noise?

The mental health crisis in SA

  • 31.5% of teen suicide attempts required medical treatment
  • 17.6% of teens had considered attempting suicide
  • 1 in 4 university students had been diagnosed with depression
  • Over 20% of 18 year olds had one or more suicide attempts
  • According to WHO half of all mental health conditions start by 14 years of age but most cases are undetected and untreated
  • More young males die by suicide than females
  • 1 in 6 teens are/will be addicted to cannabis