05/01/2018 12:22 SAST | Updated 05/01/2018 12:23 SAST

Dear Parent Of A Matriculant Who Did Not Pass – Support Them

Depression and suicide are real – even if you're disappointed, your reaction can have a lasting impact.

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Parents of matriculants who did not pass need to pay closer attention to the behaviour of their children during this time, and support them.

The class of 2017 achieved a 75,1 percent pass rate, minister of basic education Angie Motshekga announced on Thursday.

For those who did not make it, however, coping with failure may start with how parents respond to the news.

Fathima Razack, head of the commerce faculty at the Independent Institute of Education (IIE), believes it is particularly important for adults to manage their responses, as their emotional state could impact on the resilience of learners in the wake of the release of results.

"Although parents and guardians may feel deeply disappointed, they should know that their first words and reactions may leave a lasting impact."

READ: There Is Life After Failing Matric -- Here Are Your Options

"We get calls from students who feel completely helpless and hopeless," Cassey Chambers, operations director at the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) previously told HuffPost.

In December, a Grade 11 pupil from Ekangala, east of Pretoria, reportedly committed suicide after receiving his 2017 year-end report. He was found hanging in his mother's home.

Another 18-year-old boy from Soshanguve allegedly threw himself in front of a moving train after he found out he had failed -- also in early December.

Chambers said parents should pay close attention to how their children are coping, especially as matric is seen as a major milestone.

She pointed out that suicide is trickier to deal with, as it can come seemingly without warning.

However, there are usually signs, which can include:

  • depression
  • abrupt change in personality and behaviour
  • feelings of failure and helplessness
  • avoiding friends or social activities
  • talk of suicide

Sadag warns that although these symptoms can present themselves in isolated cases, it is real cause to worry when they persist over a longer period of time.

Students who failed may also become deeply depressed, which can include mood changes and them becoming persistently irritable, sad or anxious. These may be accompanied by feelings of hopelessness, guilt and helplessness.

Having trouble sleeping and appetite changes are also common symptoms of depression, and thoughts of dying or suicide might also occur.

READ: Depression, If Untreated, Can Be Life-Threatening

Where to get help

Sadag: The South African Depression and Anxiety Group offers free and confidential counselling. Their tollfree number is 0800 212 223.

Suicide Crisis Line: You can contact them on 0800 567 567 or SMS 31393.

Lifeline: A 24-hour crisis centre offering free and confidential counselling in all areas. Reachable on 0861 322 322.

Students who are not sure if their symptoms should be a concern can fill in self-screening questionnaires on Sadag's website.

"If a friend notices the symptoms in their friend, they too should reach out for help –– it could literally save a life. So don't wait to get help from a mental health professional," Chambers pointed out.