Whether genetic or circumstantial as a result of peer pressure, study stress or relationship problems – mental health, depression and anxiety are, and should be, big concerns for parents of the modern students of today.
Unfortunately, mental health issues are so often ‘swept under the rug’ or thought to be a phase that the student will simply ‘get over’ in time. The sad reality is that it is these mental health issues that can lead to student suicide if the proper help and support is not sought out in time.
In an effort to ensure that your young adult is coping, and to avoid a terrible tragedy, here’s what you, as a parent, need to be aware of.
Who is at Risk?
Literally, everyone is at risk. Depression and anxiety do not discriminate – they can affect anyone and at any time. Even those students who never showed signs of the two growing up can develop one, or both, suddenly as young adults. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to have a family history of mental illness to suffer from it yourself!
What Are the Signs?
Signs that your child may be suffering from depression and / or anxiety include the following:
- Changes in sleeping habits (sleeping more than usual or not at all)
- Changes in eating habits (over-eating or eating less than usual)
- A lacklustre attitude towards activities that he or she used to enjoy
- Overwhelming emotions (getting angry quickly, crying easily, constantly irritable etc.)
- Picking up unhealthy habits (such as excessive drinking and smoking, or recreational drugs)
- A desire to be alone
First and foremost, you need to speak openly and reassure him or her that you are on his or her side. Knowing that someone understands and is there to support them goes a long way in terms of preventing suicidal tendencies.
From there, you will need to seek help from the professionals. If seeing a psychologist is not financially plausible, rest assured that there are plenty of other ways in which to help your young adult.
The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) is generally the first port of call when it comes to helping a loved one who is suffering from depression or anxiety, and resultant suicidal thoughts. You can get in touch with them on 011 234 4837 or contact the Suicide Crisis Line toll-free on 0800 567 567.
You can also find a number of other helpful resources / call lines here. SADAG also co-ordinates a variety of support groups across the country. If you are interested in starting a support group in your area, contact Tiffany/Lara on 0800 21 22 23. Alternatively, to find an already-existing support group in your area, you can phone SADAG on 0800 21 22 23.
Most importantly, always remember that regardless of the underlying cause of your son or daughter’s depression and / or anxiety, there is always hope for recovery!
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