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Teen dies at home
06 September 2018

Police have opened an inquest docket after the lifeless body of a teenager was discovered at his family home in Somerset West.

The body of the 13-year-old boy was found hanging in his bedroom by a sibling last week. The deceased was a Grade 7 pupil at a local primary school.

Sergeant Suzan Jantjies, spokesperson for Somerset West police, said members responded to the incident at 18:50 last Wednesday 29 August. Jantjies said a note was left behind by the deceased.

“An inquest docket was opened and no foul play is suspected,” she said.

Jessica Shelver, spokesperson for the provincial education department, confirmed the department is are aware of the incident.

She said the school issued a letter to parents of learners to inform them of the incident, a copy of which was sent to the parents of the deceased for their approval before its circulation.

In the letter, in DistrictMail’s hands via a concerned reader, the principal said it is with “great sadness” that the school inform parents of one of its pupils’ death.

“His sudden passing is a great shock for us all and our thoughts and prayers are with the family,” the letter read.

“[The learner] was a beloved learner at our school, and we believe that, just like many other children in today’s time, he probably too had his own challenges in life – whether it was relationships, schoolwork or of personal nature.”

The principal encouraged parents to engage in regular conversations with their children and to offer guidance daily, in good and challenging times. And, should parents detect alarming behavioural changes, they should contact their children’s teacher, so the school can offer its support. The principal also reminded learners that the school is always available to offer support, to listen and assist during the school day.

The school and parents of the deceased declined to comment about the incident. The parents also requested no media presence at the memorial service at the school today (Thursday).

“Counselling is being provided to learners as required,” said Shelver.

Owing to an existing copycat phenomenon, suicide statistics are not publicised by the department, Shelver added. It rather emphasises supporting learners at risk.

Shelver said the Directorate for Inclusive and Specialised Education Support has introduced a support pathway for the referral of any learner experiencing a barrier to learning and development.

The process is aligned to the department’s Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support (SIAS) policy.

“The purpose of SIAS is to provide a framework of procedures to identify, assess and provide programmes for all learners who require additional support to enhance their participation and inclusion in school,” Shelver explained.

This includes emotional and behavioural barriers, such as depression or even suicidal ideation.

According to Shelver, the SIAS process assesses the level and extent of support required in schools to optimise learners’ participation in the learning process.

The aim is to design support programmes in such a way that the learner gains and maintains access to learning. “Where learners are manifesting symptoms of depression and may even be at-risk of a possible suicide attempt, schools must contact the psychologist or social worker allocated to their school by the district based support team,” said Shelver, adding that urgent cases can be reported on 0800 454 647.

In addition, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) offers a 24-hour helpline, 0800 121 314, and a suicide emergency number, 0800 567 567. Phone either for immediate assistance.

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