School shocked and puzzled over learner’s suicide

MBUZINI – A nine-year-old learner of Khula-Mlambo Primary reportedly used a tunic belt to hang himself just before the school’s final bell rang on Friday.

The Department of Education, school staff and pupils were shocked by the tragic event, and psychologists were sent to the school on Monday to provide counselling.

The family described the boy as a quiet but happy child.

Officials from the Department of Education visited the school and the child’s family on Friday to pay their respects and pledge their support to the family.

“We never imagined that something like this could happen in a school environment. We convey our sincere condolences to the family and school. The department will institute an investigation to probe the circumstances that led to this sad incident,” stated acting MEC of the Department of Education, Ms Sasekani Manzini.

READ: Community closes school over structural safety concerns

Corridor Gazette asked local clinical psychologist, Ms Liziwe Molapo, for her expert opinion on child suicide and how to recognise potentially suicidal behaviour. She stated that victims this young are quite uncommon.

“The child’s suicide could have been triggered by a variety of factors, including underlying depression, bullying or being reprimanded by someone.”

Depression is possible in children, more so these days than before. Children face more pressure and are driven to keep up with social standards,” Molapo explained.

“People often shrug off children’s issues as being moody or exaggerating, but it is important to take note of their emotional state,” Molapo said.

“People who commit suicide feel that there is no way out of their problematic situation at the time. According to statistics, males are more successful with suicides, while females who attempt suicide were found to have done it to draw attention to their circumstances,” Molapo stated.

READ: 5 things people with hidden depression do

Signs people should look out for include sudden uncharacteristic and depressive behaviour such as a social child becoming withdrawn, not sleeping or eating well or a sudden change in friends or people they hang out with.

Molapo recommended that people who were affected by a suicide should talk about it as a family and community and offer support to one another. “Don’t pretend to be okay when you’re not. You need to deal with the issue. Speak with a pastor, someone you respect or a professional such as a social worker, trauma counsellor or psychologist,” she advised.

READ: SA’s high teen suicide rate

Retha Nel

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