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Teens and mental health

"I don't feel any emotion, so for me, self-harming is a way to feel pain"
Nikki (16)

The past two years of living through a pandemic have been tough on everybody, but psychiatrists and psychologists say teenagers have been impacted significantly.

Psychologist Mark de la Rey says teenagers were particularly hard hit as they are social beings, and extended months of isolation saw a rise in depression.

He has urged parents to look out for the warning signs of mental health disorders and to seek help, sooner rather than later.

In this two-part podcast, Breaking Point, we'll explore the symptoms of depression, anxiety and self-harm - and how parents can recognise when their teenager needs professional help.

This podcast discusses suicidal ideation and self-harm, and some people might find it troubling. If anything comes up for you while listening to this episode, please talk to someone. If you're in South Africa, you can phone Sadag on 0800 456 789. 

Teens in mental health crisis amid pandemic

Psychologist Mark de la Rey says there has been "an avalanche of people looking for help".

But, he says, South Africa does not have enough psychiatrists and psychologists to meet the needs of all those seeking counselling. As a result, waiting lists are often months long, a situation that is untenable for teenagers at risk of suicide.

How to recognise the signs of a teen close to breaking point

Psychiatrist Dr Tamara Maresky says it's sometimes difficult to discern what is normal behaviour for a teenager. After all, it's a stage in which they pull away from their families, and their peer groups become the focus of their lives. 

Maresky says parents should look at how their children are engaging with their peers, whether they are engaging the way they usually have in the family system, or whether they are becoming more isolated.

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If you or anyone you know is suffering from mental health issues, you can contact:

Sadag has a WhatsApp counselling line that operates from 09:00 to 16:00:
076 882 2775

Sadag's 24-hour mental health helpline: 0800 456 789

SA Federation for Mental Health:
011 781 1852

Lifeline South Africa: 0861 322 322

Sadag has over 160 support groups around the country.