We recently learned that, at least, two young expat students committed suicide here in Qatar in the last few months. Though we have not been able to find out the reasons behind the suicides, it does raise many questions? What could lead a child to suicidal thoughts? Are we not paying enough attention to the children around us? Is there enough help in Qatar for children who may have suicidal thoughts? Could social media be to blame? What can be done to prevent this?
Suicide is a serious problem around the world, and it seems to be on the increase, so now, it's becoming increasingly important to pay more attention and try to find out the underlying issues that may lead to suicide in young people. For this we need to highlight mental health, depression, bullying and social media and how these factors can and may lead to contemplation of suicide, and even suicide itself.
"It’s very important to speak out about suicide because when people feel comfortable expressing their feelings and know that they are not going to be judged or looked down upon because they have thoughts of ending their life, then they are more likely to seek help. By talking about suicide, we can also look at the factors that cause it and how we can prevent it or reduce its incidence.”
To curb mental health problems that may take a child or down the path of even contemplating suicide, it is imperative that all interested parties promote better awareness and provide support for those at risk, such as teaching coping skills to help students deal effectively with stress, and training teachers to recognise students who may have mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, what may be the factors along with measures to reduce work-related stress, psychological therapy, family support, and medication-based treatments to children suffering from depression to achieve the best possible outcome.
In a recent conversation with Dr. Ahsan Nazeer, Division Chief, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services at Sidra Medicine, he said:
“We have recognised that if we want to make a difference in the lives of children in Qatar, we need to work closely with schools and families. At this time, we have numerous programs to promote awareness and to help parents, teachers and school counselors to recognise early warning signs of depression and to seek much needed help”.
Dr. Manal Othman, HMC’s Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, said depression is common in children in Qatar.
“Children represent 1-3% of the total incidence of depression diagnoses. Girls are twice as likely as boys to suffer from depression, especially in their adolescence. Depression in children can often have social triggers such as the breakup of their parent’s marriage, family problems or problems at school or with friends, and it can even be caused by genetic factors. Depression can affect the child’s performance at school and can even lead to self-harm or attempted suicide.”
Symptoms of depression in children can include:
“Contrary to a common belief that suicide or the act of killing oneself is a sign of weakness or lack of faith, in the majority of cases, suicide is not a deliberate act but is due to a mental illness such as severe depression or anxiety that impairs the judgment of the person committing or attempting suicide."
To understand depression and mental health issues; please read the following: https://www.iloveqatar.net/news/healthWellness/understanding-depression
Bullying in school is becoming a widespread problem around the world. Some of the common forms of bullying are name-calling, teasing, insulting, making fun of one’s appearance, threats and spreading rumours, attacking someone physically, pushing them and excluding someone from a group on purpose and cyberbullying
As explained by Stop Bullying:
“Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems. To be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:
1. An imbalance of power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.
2. Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.
For some the bullying becomes so bad, they even contemplate suicide. In fact, according to Qatar Education, bullying victims are 2-9 times more likely to consider suicide as a way to escape bullying. In addition, 14% children belonging to high school think of suicide and approximately 7% actually attempt it every year. The number of student deaths by suicide is rising day by day as the bullying epidemic continues to spread.
Bullying at schools can cause a great deal of damage to a child's mental health and cause psychological problems that require immediate attention. Though there is no definite data available, health services in Qatar often see children with problems related to bullying.
In Qatar, children between the ages of 10 to 14, are more likely to be bullied, and most often the incidences take place in school. That's why, it's very important that parents and teachers take responsibility and intervene immediately if a child is subject to bullying and changes are noticed in behaviour. The child must, firstly, be made to feel secure. After this the parents and the teacher should talk to the child and listen to their problems.
Cyberbullying (bullying through electronic means) is another form that is much more prevalent today. According to Dr. Ahsan Nazeer, Division Chief, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services at Sidra Medicine:
“Kids use technology differently than parents do. They spend extensive amount of time playing online games, being on blogs, instant chatrooms, message board and sending texts to peers. It is extremely important for the parents to get involved in their kids’ cyber world, just as it is important for them to stay involved in their real world”.
Most children and adolescents do not share the information of them being cyberbullied with their parents and teachers. For various reasons they feel ashamed, however, if kept a close watch, parents and teachers can identify some of the following warning signs in someone who is being cyber bullied.
According to Dr. Ahsan Nazeer:
“The only way to effectively combat cyberbullying is to bring parents, teachers, peers, social media companies and community resources together by educational media campaigns, establishing school based programs, improving oversight by parents and bring primary care and mental health professionals together. At Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services at Sidra Medicine, we have a team of professionals who are experts in managing depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and other self-harming behaviours, irrespective of the cause.
A child’s emotional wellbeing is as important as their physical health. If children have good mental health, it will allow them to grow as individuals and develop resilience so they are equipped to cope with the ups and downs of life when they are adults.
Many schools in Qatar have anti-bullying policies and they are creating awareness of bullying and how to prevent it it through anti-bullying weeks, talking about bullying and creating an environment where bullying in any form is not tolerated.
As parents, caregivers, family and friends, we can also help prevent suicidal thoughts in children and teens around us by following the tips below:
We must pay close attention to children. They may not talk about what's bothering them, but we need to keep a look out for any signs that may not seem normal to us like withdrawing from social life; staying alone and being irritable all the time. We must be accessible to children so they can come and talk to us about their feelings. Encourage them to talk to you and listen to them; really listen to them.
One of the first signs of a problem maybe the dropping of grades in school, especially if they normally get good grades. talk to them and to their teachers to understand and underlying issues like bullying or depression that maybe responsible for these dropping grades.
If children make threats that they will commit suicide, they may be doing it just for attention, but can you be sure it's just a call for attention? Listen to them, talk to them and never just shrug off their threats.
No matter what happens, or what they do, make children feel loved and encouraged. Never put them down or make them feel bad about themselves. Give them a nurturing home where they can feel safe and support them always.
Make sure children lead a healthy lifestyle; eat healthy foods, exercise and do plenty of physical activities, stay hydrated and sleep well.
If you are concerned that your child may be experiencing mental stress and/or suffering from bullying or depression, please seek medical advice because while we may be able to provide the support mentioned above, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Discuss with your doctor or make an appointment with a private or primary healthcare physician, who may determine if you need a referral to the Psychiatry Department.
All families go through times when they have to deal with a lot of stress and worry. During times like these, parents and their children or teenagers may need extra help and support from family members, friends and others.
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