SA Youth & Mental Wellness | ZwavelStream Clinic
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SA Youth & Mental Health

A recent study done in 2018 has confirmed the worst – South African teens are in a depression crisis. Not exactly the best way to go into Youth Month, but it’s necessary to understand what we’re dealing with so that our teens can get the help they need. The stark reality is that 24% of youth from Grade 8 through 11 struggle with feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and depression. Furthermore, a staggering 21% have tried to commit suicide. And these are just the cases we’re aware of. So many teens deal with mental health issues that go untreated, or are not detected at all. Some of these issues include anxiety, depression, trauma, as well as stress and mood disorders. Added to this, all of the aforementioned conditions greatly increase the suicide risk. It’s clear that being a teen in South Africa today comes with a unique set of challenges that has pushed it to this critical point.

The challenges SA Youth face

It’s more than 40 years after the Soweto Uprising of 1976 – the day commemorated on June 16 as Youth Day. However, the struggle for a brighter future for SA’s youth is still going strong. And the struggle is real. That’s because teens today face high rates of poverty and crime, obstacles to equal education, widespread unemployment, and substance abuse. What’s worse, is that there is seemingly no plan to address these challenges and improve our youth’s quality of life.
For example, there have been calls for cuts to the education budget. This is with the knowledge that only 45% of Grade 1s will write their matric exam. Cuts to the budget will mean less resources, a decrease in trained teachers and ultimately, children who are being sold short by their country. And say the lucky 45% pass their matric exam and graduate into adult citizenship. Where will they work? Unemployment has more than 60% of the country’s youth living in abject poverty. Not surprising, since South Africa boasts a long, drawn-out relationship with poverty and crime. That’s because both those conditions create cycles that are virtually impossible to break. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. The cost of not trying is far too great, as we can see on the faces of our suffering youth.

Making a change

Mental well-being is a teenager’s first line of defense when it comes to coping with life’s challenges. So where do we begin to help them manage it? As parents/caregivers, it’s important that we help our teens develop resilience in the face of life’s stresses. Involvement and engagement are two ways in which you can help them do that.Firstly, educate yourself about the warning signs of mental illness so that you know what to look out for. Further, make sure you’re available and supportive in a non-judgmental way. Open communication does wonders for peace of mind and security. Another thing you can do to encourage positive mental health, is to teach them good physical health. This means regular exercise, following a balanced diet, and getting enough sleep. The link between the body and mind is undeniable, and when we take care of the one, the other naturally benefits. The support of family is key when it comes to managing mental health, and nobody understands that better than we do here at ZwavelStream Clinic. That is why our treatment programs make provision to include guidance and support for family members. In this way, we create a strong positive force for young people to rely on in their times of struggle. Please
get in touch with us if you’d like to know more about our adolescent treatment programs.

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