One of the most prepared for, most anticipated days in the calendar is arriving soon – the release of the matric exams. This is a stressful time for learners, their parents, and schools and, while the wait usually ends in screams and shouts of excitement, there are sad moments. Some learners will not have passed as well as they had hoped, or may have failed the year and may have to re-write certain exams; or go back to school to redo the year.
But failing does not mean the end to a teen’s future before it even starts – failure can be a great opportunity to learn and develop on the way to success.
Teen suicide after matric exams has been exaggerated – matric results are seldom the sole cause for suicide, which can be a complex issue. But with teen suicide at 9.5% of teen deaths, there is a concern that matric results-time may aggravate symptoms for a depressed teen.
The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) is advising learners to get their results directly from the school – there have always been printing errors with newspaper results and while it is fun checking how your friends did in the paper, getting results from the school is the most reliable, If you have failed, speak to your headmaster immediately and see what options are open to you – a re-mark, or a supp exam may be options if you have failed only a couple of subjects. “It is really important that if you are feeling depressed that you speak to someone”, The Department of Education has a help line and for acute suicidal crises call SADAG which is open 7 days a week from 8am to 8pm on 0800 12 13 14. Or SMS 31393.
We tend to focus a lot at the matriculants who have failed, there is another group of learners who are at risk of depression. Those learners who are the ‘straight-A-kids’, the teens who are expected to get 9 distinctions. Too often, high achievement is linked to esteem and teens who don’t do as well as expected may plunge into depression.
SADAG advises parents to talk to their teens in the lead up to the release of results. Don’t make assumptions about how they are feeling, or what their stresses are. Teens are very good at hiding how they are feeling – so ask.
“Teenagers are often really symbols of what you see is not what you get, so find out what they are thinking, open the discussion to get find out what they are going through”, says psychologist Lee-Ann Hartman. Expectation is high at this time of year and it is important that parents show love and guidance and support without being judgmental or controlling – we are all good at different things and your child may not be an ace at Maths like you were, but may be a brilliant artist. “All children and teens need to know that you are there, even at the most inconvenient of times, and that they can be successful at their own time and in their own way”, says Hartman.
Matric exams are very stressful and there is a lot of competition and expectation. Teens often feel judged according to their performance and the embarrassment of having to repeat a year can be devastating. Schools need to help students understand that repeating is an opportunity but still be aware of signs of depression.
“Failing matric is hard and there are consequences – both emotional and financial – but there are also options and opportunities”, says SADAG’s Cassey Chambers. If you haven’t done as well as you expected, don’t beat yourself up. Nobody’s perfect and we all make mistakes – look at what went wrong, why, and how you can make it better the next time. Obsessing about what’s wrong and focussing on the negative isn’t going to help you learn the lessons you need to learn or grow from your experiences. Recognize what you can change and what you can’t – you may not be able to change your results, but you can change how you deal with it, and how you cope with the new opportunity to succeed.
Text Box: Symptoms of Teen Depression
Not sure if you may have depression? Look at the questions – if you answer yes to 2 or more, please call SADAG on 0800 12 13 14 . Do you cry often, and sometimes for no reason at all?
. Do you feel anxious or restless?
. Do you feel like you don’t have the energy to do the things you used
. Do you feel that you are worthless or a failure?
. Do you get extremely angry or hurt when other people criticize you?
. Do you often feel irritable and angry?
. Do you often feel tired, even during the day?
. Have you been thinking about death and suicide?
. Have you lost interest in spending time with family and friends?
. Have you lost interest in the activities you once enjoyed?