For many young people, the idea of failing a particular Grade as a result of achieving poor Grades in an exam, or academic year, can be a daunting experience. It is often in this state of complete fear and hopelessness that students become overwhelmingly anxious – devastated by the idea that they are complete failures to themselves, their families and a disgrace when compared to their friends. It is often is this state of mind that students consider “the act’’ that most parents, teachers, coaches, communities and friends fear most – the death by suicide of a young person.
Researchers found that teens with the lowest final average grades after year nine at age 16 (in a Swedish school) were three times more likely to commit suicide than students who graduated with the best or, at least, very high grades. The findings were always that the risk of suicide decreases as Grades increased.
It is becoming vital for parents and teachers to become aware of the factors that may lead to teen suicide in order to prevent such tragic decisions being made by troubled teens. It is better to create a precautionary awareness although often it is not possible to prevent a suicide from happening.
Risk factors to be aware of include, but is not limited to the following:
- Teenagers who attempted suicide before
- If there is a history of suicide in the family
- If there is a history of substance abuse such as drugs.
- If there is a history of abuse (physically and emotionally)
- If the student has a chronic illness
- If the student has a broken relationship with his parent(s)
- If there is a recent loss of a loved one or a divorce or a separation
- If there has been too many disruptions in their lives, such as moving house, changing friends or being forced to participate in activities.
Interesting to note: the age groups most highly at risk are students between 15-19 years of age. During this particular phase, students are challenged to make the most important decisions of the life:
In Grade 9 (Aged 15) – students have to choose subjects at High School level that will impact their career choices of life.
In Grade 11 (Aged 17) – student are in the rat race to apply for acceptance for Tertiary Studies
In Grade 12 (aged 18) – students sit their final exit examinations that will confirm their ability to meet their career aspirations and goals
As a First-Year tertiary students (Aged 19) – students are often forced to leave their family homes and relocate to institutions where they are exposed alone in a strange place with social factors forcing them to make new friendships.
Choosing a High School that can accommodate the needs of young students are vital. Students often spend more time at school than at home and it would be wise for any parent to choose a High School that can offer at least the following:
- Strong Student Support and recognition
- A strong emphasis on the needs of the individual student
- A wide variety of subject choices
- Student Assistance Programmes, such as Career Assessments
- Strong Policies such as Prevention Programmes
- Strong Academic Support such as access to an Educational Psychologist for Concession Assessments
- Strong Diversity amongst the student body.
Parents should teach their children about failure. The importance of accepting failure is as important as that of celebrating successes. And- if at last the student did not succeed, provide the relevant support and encouragement to ensure he tries again. Abbotts Colleges, for example will always provide students with a Life Changing opportunity to try again – an institution that can be benchmarked with distinctions against the 7 recommended offerings listed above.
For more information visit www.abbotts.co.za
Those concerned about an adolescent (or adult) at risk of suicide can contact the Suicide Crisis Helpline at 0800 567 567 or SMS 31393 any day of the week from 8am–8pm. The 24-hour helpline can be reached at 0800 12 13 14.
By Anthony Jansen van Rensburg
Principal at Abbotts College Pretoria East