“If some teenager says: ‘I want to kill myself’, it should be taken very seriously”

Other warning signs of depression include substance abuse, becoming disinterested in activities, a change in eating and sleeping habits, emotional distancing and impulsive behaviour.

DUBAI // Never dismiss a suicide note or someone talking of ending their life as mere attention seeking, a psychiatrist has urged.

Many teenagers who have suicidal thoughts tell someone, said Dr Muhammad Tahir, a general psychiatrist at the Health Call clinic in Dubai Healthcare City.

“If some adolescent says: ‘I want to kill myself’ it should be taken very seriously,” said Dr Tahir, who specialises in treating adolescents.

“It might start with isolation, staying out late at night and not seeing friends, not participating in their studies, not liking the things they liked before and then vocalisation.

“When vocalised, this is something that should be taken very seriously.

“Sometimes parents feel that this is attention seeking. Whatever the reason, any time adolescents say they do not want to live or they do not feel their life is worth living, they should be seen by a professional.

“A suicide note is very important. If they find some statement or something, take it very seriously. They might say ‘I don’t want to be here anymore’, or ‘I want you know to know something in case something happens to me’. These sort of things should be taken seriously.”

Other warning signs of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues include substance abuse, becoming disinterested in activities, a change in eating and sleeping habits, emotional distancing and impulsive behaviour.

“Suicide in adolescents is predetermined in the child’s behaviour,” Dr Tahir said.

“Suicide in the children who have family dysfunction is a major risk factor, physical abuse and sexual abuse is a major risk factor for self harm.

“Substance abuse is another major risk factor and the history of mental health in the family, such as schizophrenia or bipolar, is another factor in mental illness.”

Dr Tahir said spotting the warning signs of depression and anxiety among adolescents was a shared burden for teachers and parents.

“This is everybody’s responsibility,” he said. “We need to identify who is at risk. We should know the warning signs, the risk factors and should be able to identify someone who is at high risk.”

Schools should hold regular programmes on mental health to arm teenagers with knowledge of different mental health disorders and know when to seek help, he said.

“The parents can also do their part,” Dr Tahir said. “They can look at the adolescent and see if there is any changes and get medical help.

“And the schools, if they see anything in the adolescent they should involve the parents as well as the school health counsellor, and then the appropriate healthcare professional.”

jbell@thenational.ae

Published: May 20, 2014 04:00 AM

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