Suicide and related health riks behaviours among school learners in South Africa: results from the 2002 and 2008 national youth riks behaviour surveys
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Attempted and completed suicide constitute a major public health problem among young people world-wide, including South Africa (SA). Suicide attempt and completed suicide increase during the adolescent period. One in 5 adolescents considers attempting suicide, but statistics are frequently unreliable. Data for this study were derived from the 2002 and 2008 South African Youth Risk Behaviour Surveys (YRBS). The study population comprised grades 8, 9, 10 and 11 students in governmental schools in the nine provinces of SA (N = 10,699 in 2002 and 10,270 in 2008). Key outcome measures were suicide ideation and suicide attempts. Of the total sample, 18% of the students in 2002 and 19% in 2008 reported to have seriously considered and/or made a plan to commit suicide during the past six months (Suicide ideation), whereas 18.5% of students in 2002 and 21.8% in 2008 reported that they had attempted suicide at least 1 time during the past six months. On both suicide measures girls have higher prevalence scores than boys, and older school learners score higher than younger learners. In addition, 32% of the learners reported feelings of sadness or hopelessness. These feelings contributed significantly to the explanation of suicide ideation and suicide attempt next to being the victim or actor in violent acts and illegal substance use. The prevalence of suicide ideation and suicide attempts among South African adolescents is high and seems to be influenced by a wide spectrum of factors at the demographic, psychological and behavioural level. Hence, more research is needed to determine the behavioural and psychological determinants of suicide among
youngsters in order to develop comprehensive intervention strategies for suicide prevention and care.