Pretoria girl commits suicide allegedly after cyberbullying

19 February 2019 - 08:04 By Nico Gous
Image: Brent Lewin

A 13-year-old girl from Pretoria committed suicide after a photograph was sent around her school via WhatsApp.

Sinoville Crisis Centre (SCC) spokesperson Sonja Carstens said the teenager committed suicide on Monday after being subjected to cyberbullying. The photograph was doing the rounds since last week.

"The learner allegedly distributed an image and this was forwarded on WhatsApp groups. It is alleged that other learners teased the girl about the image."

It is unclear what the photograph showed.

SCC CEO Colleen Strauss said the girl had been traumatised, and had asked her teachers for help.

The girl was afraid to go to school and her mother met with the school principal on Monday morning. Later on Monday morning her mother found her body at home.

"This heartbreaking incident is a wake-up call to everyone working with children. Children experience emotions much more severe and can be very impulsive. They don’t have the knowledge to realise in the spur of the moment that everything will be ok tomorrow," Strauss said.

"This incident could have been prevented. There is always help. Suicide is not the solution."

Strauss said bullying and sarcastic remarks are common among children.

"Typical bully behaviour would be for girls to spread 'gossip' or false rumours about a friend in a peer group. It is also not unusual for girls to target boys. Especially children who are soft-spoken and shy are targeted."

Strauss said parents and teachers should be on the lookout for changes in eating and sleeping patterns, irritability, moodiness or isolation from daily activities.

The SCC sent counsellors to the school to support learners and parents. The basic education department is investigating the allegations leading up to the suicide.

If you are struggling and need help, contact the SA Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) on 011 234 4837 or on the emergency suicide line‚ 0800 567 567.