Children suffer from mental health issues too: A personal account

Children suffer from mental health issues too: A personal account

We are slowly making the shift towards de-stigmatizing mental illness, and raising awareness about best practices for good mental health, and how to recognize illness, but there’s a section of our society we often forget in all this, children. It’s a misconception that teenagers and pre-teens can’t suffer from mental illness and health problems. You often hear, “Unonetswa nei mwana mudiki akaita sewe?” Loosely translated, “What could possibly stress you out, young as you are?”, and yet we fail to understand that young people often grapple with their own pressures and health issues.


Consequences of unaddressed mental illness in children are all around us, and they leave tragedy in their wake. In October 2019, an 18-year old pupil from Churchill High School in Harare committed suicide (), he jumped off a building in the city centre. Now, most people would be horrified by this and ask what could possibly have gone wrong, yet this boy showed all the signs of mental illness (). He displayed suicide ideation, which is when an individual constantly thinks about suicide, for some people it never goes beyond that, but for others, it develops into suicide intention, and they attempt suicide…some, like this boy, succeed.


The story is heart-breaking, and perhaps the loss of life could have been prevented had this young man received necessary counselling or therapy from trained professionals. A child or adult suffering from mental health problems and experiencing suicide ideation can be brought back from this dark place, there’s proof of that. Here’s a personal account written by another young person, an 18-year old girl suffering from an Anxiety Disorder who was prompted to write this in response to the boy’s suicide. Her identity has been protected for privacy’s sake, but she refers to herself as Anxious Smurf.


 I really want to tell someone how I felt about the Churchill upper sixth student who took his own life by jumping off the third floor of the Parkade. Yes, I know suicide is something that has become something that we hear about often. This was definitely not the first time I have heard about a person who committed suicide but the difference this time around is that it did affect me. I didn’t know this boy, I had never met him and I didn’t know his story. So telling someone or reacting strongly to this issue is something that people won’t understand and you are probably wondering how it affected me then.


 According to people the reason he did it was because he felt as if he had failed his examinations (do note that he was not yet done with his exams).


 Comments that people made:

“We do not do that even when things are difficult. He was a coward.”

“Hahaha, a space in heaven wasted.”

“He was inconsiderate. He didn’t even consider his parents’ feelings.”

 Even the way some people laughed about it made me angry.

I, for one, when I heard about this tragedy and the alleged reason I refused to simply settle for the, “it was exam stress that pushed him.” I simply said there should be more.

 I got emotional and angry. When I saw the headline I wanted to cry but I didn’t. I swallowed my tears. Why did I want to cry?

I didn’t know him, but the reason I wanted to cry was because I felt sorry for him. Yes, I know I am not the only who felt that way. I felt that way because I know what it feels like to have suicidal thoughts, but what saddened me the most is he lost the battle. I was successful because I cried out for help and I got help. Not everyone is blessed with a parent who understands and accepts that we are mentally ill and tries finding a way to get the necessary help.

(I can never thank my family enough, who supported me and still continue to support me especially my mom. I know it was hard for her to learn about my thoughts and what I was going through.)

 I know how it feels having a little voice that persistently tells you to hang yourself from a tree that is deep in the park; to overdose on tablets or to run in front of a moving car or have a little voice that prays, yes, that prays that ‘God please can an accident just happen and I die but everyone else is okay or that a car ignores the traffic light signals.’ The urge is so real and not listening to it is actually a battle. Sometimes you feel as if you are actually moving towards the little voice or have a feeling that you want to just disappear. I won’t lie it was scary and these thoughts scared me. They were painful thoughts.

Then another thought crossed my mind, it could have been me.

 Now when my brother and his friends laughed about it, I wanted to say that, ‘do you know that it could have been me just a different case scenario?’. It could just be your friend or sibling but then I remembered that I didn’t really tell my brother why I was admitted at a halfway house.

 His death wasn’t the thing that made me emotional rather it was what he went through mentally and emotionally that led to his death. It’s not easy.

We don’t just get to the conclusion that we want to end it all. It’s because our fears will be eating us alive, the anxiety and everything seems to be a lot. Maybe for him, it was different but when we get to some point we will be gone, by then existing, but not living. Alive but not living.

 I just thought you would understand. I have so much but it’s all jumbled up but I tried.

 -Anxious Smurf, 2019.


Reading her lived experience gives one an insight into what it must be like to grapple with dark thoughts, with no light in sight. Compassion towards young people displaying signs of mental health problems will take us a long way towards guarding against its negative and sometimes tragic consequences. So I appeal to all of you to always be on the lookout for such problems in children. Listen to their problems without belittling or judging them and seek professional help when they request it or start behaving out of character or show signs of extreme sadness/stress/fear. There are many symptoms of mental illness and health problems and it’s up to us to learn about them and react proactively.


Tariro is actively engaged in raising awareness on mental health and as Tariro we have come to realise mental health issues do not spare anyone as late last year we experienced a suicide attempt by one of the girls we support. Tariro recently received a grant from Kutsinhira’s ZCDP (Zimbabwe Community Development Project) which will go towards empowering and the capacity building of Tariro supported students and their peers on mental health awareness. The main objective of the project is to empower girls and young women with knowledge of mental health issues. The project aims to increase the girls and young women’s awareness and ability to speak out freely on mental health issues and also on how to access services and treatment for mental health issues. The envisaged outcomes of the project are, girls and young women will be aware of mental health issues and will amplify their confidence and ability to speak out on mental health issues and secondly, the girls and young women will be in a position to assist their peers who are having mental health issues.



Author bio:

Yvonne Feresu lives for this. For speaking to readers like you, fighting these battles at your side and hoping that with each written word she can convince you to help make the world a better place too, for girls. She writes a…lot, you can find her on her blog.  . Yvonne volunteers for Tariro .



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