World Mental Health Day: Parents urged to pay closer attention to children

This year, the World Health Organisation is focusing on suicide prevention on World Mental Health Day.

FILE: In this country, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) said on average, 600 people with suicidal thoughts call its helplines every day. Picture:

CAPE TOWN/JOHANNESBURG - How often do you hear phrases such as “put on your big girl panties” or “real men don’t cry?”

How about “don’t be such a girl?”

These commonly uttered words are meant to build one’s character, but they can be just as damaging.

As the world observes Mental Health Day, parents are being urged to pay closer attention to how they respond to their children’s feelings and well-being and the possible long-term effects.

This year, the World Health Organisation, in partnership with the International Association for Suicide Prevention and the United for Global Mental Health, is focusing on suicide prevention.

In this country, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) said on average, 600 people with suicidal thoughts call its helplines every day.

Educational psychologist Mbalenhle Gumbi said there needed to be better attention and care for children in their homes, social surroundings and schools.

“If your boy is crying, why are they crying? Find out the reasons behind their emotions before just impulsively saying they must not cry. Then you are basically saying to them, you are supporting them. It is ok to feel emotions," she said.

Sadag’s Cassey Chambers has also highlighted the urgency to provide resources to help minors.

“Dr Helen Clarke at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, they run an amazing psychiatric child unit, which has a very long waiting list that is constantly full. It is the only one in Gauteng," said Chambers.

Chambers said Sadag has seen a rise in the number of children reaching out for help while battling suicidal thoughts.


South Africans are four times more likely to commit suicide compared to the global average.

The South African Society of Psychiatrists said there was an estimated 18 suicides across the country daily.

The organisation said suicide is preventable, but gaps in South Africa’s public and private healthcare system needed to be closed if the country was to reduce the risk.

The World Health Organisation said South Africa's estimated suicide rate of around 13 people per 100,000 is approximately four times the global rate of 3.6.

Psychiatrist Doctor Kobus Roux said most of these deaths could have been averted.

“There are things in the South African climate that make people feel more vulnerable.”

Roux stressed ongoing therapeutic contact with high-risk patients was a vital strategy in suicide prevention.

He said it was important for people to speak out if they found themselves in a challenging situation and were unable to cope.

Roux also highlighted the importance of follow-up care once a suicidal crisis had been averted.

If this article has raised issues for you or if you’re concerned about someone you know, call the South African Depression and Anxiety Group’s Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567.