About 100 women shared personal experiences and discussed depression and teenage suicide at a Health and Human Rights seminar hosted on 27 August 2016 by the Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies in collaboration with the 1.6 Million Club South Africa and Mhani Gingi Social Entrepreneurial Network.

However, the event was cut short by the sound of gunshots from gang activity in the area, which disrupted proceedings at the Bonteheuwel Community Hall and brought home the reality of challenges faced by women living in communities of Cape Town.

The keynote address on teenage suicide was delivered by Cassey Chambers, Operations Director of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, SADAG.  Chambers said it was important to encourage women to “keep talking and sharing” and to acknowledge mental health problems that affected them “before it is too late”.

Teenage suicide is becoming more and more of a problem in South Africa as attitudes to speaking about the problem shift, Chambers said.  “The youngest suicide that we are aware of was a seven-year-old,” she told the seminar.  Parents needed to realise that children were also at risk for depression and to talk to them about depression and anxiety.  “Don’t wait for there to be a crisis,” she said.

Cassey Chambers, Operations Director of SADAG

Based on South African National Youth Risk Behaviour Survey 2011 statistics, one in four teenagers in South Africa had experienced sad or hopeless feelings and 31.5% of teenagers had made suicide attempts requiring medical treatment, Chambers said.

“It is important to be informed and to be able to recognise the warning signs … and also to know that there is a dedicated helpline with counselling available.”

Lillian Masebenza, Founding Director of Mhani Gingi, said:  “We are all faced with the scourge of mental illness.  It is important for us to be aware of the signs and to know who to turn to.”  She looked forward to further collaborations working together to empower the less fortunate who were faced with traumatic experiences on a  daily basis.

Pastor Elizabeth Stevens opened proceedings.  The programme included a “Peace Diet” that seeks an end to all wars, including gang and drug wars.  The Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies, led by Soraya Salie, planned an item called “Shaking Off the Shackles of Abuse”.

Perpetrators often took advantage of unlettered women and children, said Salie.  “We say NO to violence and abuse against Women and children!!”

The Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies are an interfaith group without barriers of faith, culture, creed, colour, gender or age.  They have been in operation for the past nine years.

SADAG 24-hour helpline:   0800 12 13 14

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