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Literacy is a luxury that many of us take for granted. That is why SADAG created SPEAKING BOOKS and revolutionized the way healthcare information is delivered to low literacy communities.

The customizable 16-page book, read by local celebrity audio recordings, ensures that vital health and social messages can be seen, heard, read and understood by everyone across the world.

We started with books on Teen Suicide prevention , HIV, AIDS and Depression, Understanding Mental Health and have developed over 100+ titles, such as TB, Malaria, Polio, Vaccines for over 45 countries.

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Teen Bullying devastates lives and can lead to suicide

Suicide Prevention week February 15th – 21st. 2009

Kicked, punched, spat at, taunted, and shunned. At 13 years old, Jaime* was already an outcast, the perfect target for vicious name-calling and savage attacks. Surely Jaime had done something to justify this treatment? Absolutely, say her attackers, she has red hair and freckles. Steven* experienced similar trauma. His bullies even followed him home, throwing stones at him and tripping him. His crime? Steven was thin and wore glasses, and preferred reading to rugby. Jaime and Steven committed the ultimate crime of being different. One survived the punishment, one did not.

If you are different in any way, you run the risk of being picked on and rejected. Too fat, not fat enough; too smart, not smart enough… anything can be a ‘reason’ for bullying. Bullying is on the increase yet, shockingly, parents, teachers, adults generally still don’t see anything wrong with it and underestimate the extent and effect of bullying. Bullying is the most common form of violence; between 15 percent and 30 percent of teens have been involved with bullying yet more than two-thirds of teens believe schools respond poorly to bullying and that adult help is infrequent and ineffective. One in 10 learners who drop out of school does so because of repeated bullying. As many as 7% of learners stay home at least once a month because of bullies. 58 percent of youth have not told their parents or an adult about a bullying incident. Are these views surprising when we consider 25 percent of teachers see nothing wrong with bullying? More frightening, we tell our children to expect it – and accept it – because “boys will be boys” and it makes you stronger.

Imagine sitting on your lunch hour at work, eating your lunch quietly… without warning you are knocked from your chair, your lunch splatters as your head hits the ground, you feel blow after blow raining down on your head, your face, your body. Imagine being told if you say anything or complain you will be killed… This is the reality for many of our children everyday at school. A reality we tell them will make them more resilient.

Depression and suicide among teens in growing fast,” says Cassey Amoore, Counselling Manager of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG). “Teens may develop depression due to external environmental factors. Bullying is one of these factors, and it has severe, long-term effects on the child’s mental and physical health. The effects of bullying can last a lifetime and cause a great deal of pain and misery. They can - and do - result in suicide.” This week is Teen Suicide Prevention Week and SADAG is urging parents, teachers and all adults concerned with the mental health of the youth to take action and do something about bullying. “Schools need to have anti-bullying policies in place. There are workshops and seminars to help parents and teachers, and counselling for victims and bullies is vital.” For more information, contact Cassey or Chevonne on 011 262 6396.

Jaime knows just how devastating bullying can be. “I felt so alone and so scared all the time. I didn’t understand why they all hated me – I still don’t really. I have red hair, is that a reason to beat someone up? I couldn’t talk to anyone, my teachers saw what was going on and they did nothing, they said nothing. I couldn’t trust anyone. I cried myself to sleep every night and every night I’d pray that I wouldn’t wake up. But I always did.” SADAG has a toll-free suicide crisis line open 7 days a week from 8am to 8pm on 0800 20 50 26. Teens can also SMS 31393 for help.

Victims of bullying are more likely to suffer physical problems such as common colds and coughs, sore throats, poor appetite, and night waking.

They feel anxious, tense and afraid. It affects their concentration at school and results in a drop in school performance. “Bullying affects the victim’s self-esteem and feelings of self-worth”, says Johannesburg-based psychologist Sandra Brownrigg, “Teens may start to withdraw socially and become depressed. Some may take weapons to school for protection or consider suicide as the only escape”.

Research has shown that even years after being bullied, past victims have higher levels of depression and poorer self-esteem that other adults. “I still don’t fight back, I don’t even make eye-contact when I walk into a room. In many ways, I’m still that terrified, bullied little girl I was 20 years ago”, says Michelle, a 34-year-old housewife.

Steven was just 15 when he hanged himself with his dog's leash in his bedroom. He left a note saying the bullies were "killing him" and this was the only way to make the pain stop. "If I try to get help it will get worse." Family, friends, Steven’s school were all devastated by this final act

of violence but why weren’t they outraged by the events that led to it? Why did Steven’s bullies get away with it for so long without

objections, indignation, intervention, or outrage

We have to make parents and teachers understand that bullying can result in suicide. Yet bullying is a learned behaviour; if it can be learned it can be changed”, says Amoore. The pain caused by bullying doesn’t end when school is over. Bullying is a cowardly, brutal and humiliating thing to do to another human being. It is difficult to come to terms with and can be so overwhelming that the only option is seen to be suicide. It is time for bullying to be brought into the light.

Warning Signs:

  • Social withdrawal

  • Grades deteriorate

  • Fear of going to school, being at school, walking to and from school

  • Crying to sleep

  • Nightmares

  • Changes in eating habits

  • Refusal to say what’s wrong

  • Excuses not to go to school

What parents can do:

  • Be open to the possibility that your child may be being bullied

  • If you suspect something may be wrong - ask

  • Listen to your child

  • Take him/her seriously

  • Never blame the child – it is not their fault

  • Reassure them they were right in telling you

  • Don’t promise to keep it a secret

  • Discuss practical ways to solve the problem

  • Teach self-confidence, assertiveness and social skills

  • Enrol kids in extra mural activities to help them widen their social circle

  • Never expect kids to work it out on their own

  • Talk to teachers and other parents – if there’s one bullied kid, there will be others.


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