Understanding and learning how to spot signs of distress early is key to give the right intervention
Dubai: Teen suicide can be prevented if red flags are spotted early on and given the right intervention, mental health experts said.
Two Filipino students aged 15 and 16 reportedly committed suicide in their own homes last week in Dubai. The 16-year-old girl hanged herself in her bedroom in a flat in Al Ghusais on Tuesday. A day later, a 15-year-old boy jumped to his death from the eighth floor of his building.
Both were Grade 10 students in a school in Muhaisnah. Dubai police, however, maintained that there is no link between the two deaths.
Dubai police’s initial investigation revealed that the first victim was battling depression and had attempted to commit suicide in the past as well. Investigations are ongoing.
Dr Mohammad Tahir, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and medical director at American Wellness Centre, said people very often don’t recognise symptoms of mental health problems. He said it is important that both parents and school officials are able to spot the signs early on.
“Suicide is a very serious attempt. The symptoms are the indicators and the markers start much earlier. So I think, teachers and parents need to keep their eyes and ears open if a person is sad or depressed, not taking interest in the daily activities, and not taking care of themselves,” Dr Tahir told Gulf News.
“Parents or teachers should seek help sooner than later if they see these signs. Any comment or any gesture from the teenager especially, should be taken very seriously.”
Occasional sadness may not be suspect but it’s better not to miss checking the root cause of a teen’s negative feelings, especially if it is recurrent.
“If the teenager is saying ‘I’m unhappy,’ it’s a protracted sadness or ‘Nobody loves me, I don’t have any hope,’ these things are actually red flags. These kids need to be evaluated properly and then followed-up appropriately. This is very very important because suicidal thoughts do not happen overnight,” Dr Tahir said.
Voicing out these thoughts is also a red flag that shouldn’t be ignored, Farah Dahabi, clinical social worker at Lighthouse Arabia and Head of Raymee Grief Centre, told Gulf News.
“Some of the signs can be when someone says that they want to end their life or gives things away, or says, ‘Everyone would be better off without me’. But we know that majority or 85 per cent of individuals that attempt or commit suicide have a mental health disorder,” Dahabi said.
Understanding the early signs of depression and anxiety and learning how to deal with them are important since one in four individuals globally experiences mental health disorder, Dahabi said.
The other signs are engaging in very risky behaviour or self-harm, isolating one’s self, or having a constant feeling of hopelessness.
“We can all have bad days but when there is depression, it’s not just one or a few bad days, it can begin to impact their grades, their friendships. It’s often persistent over time,” Dahabi said.
Establishing open communication with teens is important, especially between parents and their children, so the latter will feel comfortable to open up. Asking them pointedly but in a non-judgemental and caring way about what they are planning to do about their emotions should help.
Also for school counsellors, Dr Tahir said it would help if they would have a low threshold on spotting these signs and would seek professional help immediately.
RED FLAGS: If the teen or adult is showing:
1) Constant feeling of hopelessness
2) Sadness, depression, anxiety
3) Sudden lack of interest in life or daily activities
4) Self-harm, isolation
5) Odd behaviour such as saying goodbye for no reason