Suicide attempts among Syrian children rising sharply, warns Save the Children

The charity has warned of a mental health crisis

Bel Trew
Middle East Correspondent
@beltrew
Thursday 29 April 2021 00:32
Syrian children watching a makeshift puppet show in the country’s northwestern Idlib province last month
Syrian children watching a makeshift puppet show in the country’s northwestern Idlib province last month

The number of children attempting or committing suicide in north-west Syria has surged, according to Save the Children,with almost one in five of all recorded cases involving those under the age of 18.

Warning of a deadly mental health crisis, the global charity said that the total number of suicides in the area at the end of 2020 had jumped by nearly 90 per cent in comparison to the first three months of last year.

They said they had recorded 246 suicides and 1,748 attempts  in  the last three months of 2020 alone.

Of those who attempted suicide, at least 42 are 15 years old or younger, while 18 percent are adolescents and young people between the ages of 16 and 20.

The latest incident took place just last week when Save the Children’s partners confirmed that a 14-year-old boy took his own life in a displacement camp in Hama.

The rights groups blamed the sharp increase in suicide attempts on the deterring conditions in the war ravaged area including poverty, lack of employment and schooling, domestic violence and child marriage.

“Almost 15 percent of adult patients have suicidal thoughts,” Majd, a mental health worker with Save the Children’s partner organisation Hurras Network in North Idlib, said“Children meanwhile express [their emotional struggles] through behaviour. They become aggressive, isolated or vengeful.”

He told Save the Children about a 15-year-old girl who had been married for a year, during which her marriage started deteriorating. He said:

“The day she died by suicide, her husband was giving her trouble and they had an argument, so he left the house then came back to find her dead.”

Sonia Khush, Save the Children’s Syria Response Director, said the situation was “desperately alarming”.

“After ten years of conflict, we are now seeing children resorting to taking their own lives.”

“It is incredibly sad that children are reaching a point where they see no other way out from a life where they cannot get an education, enough food or adequate shelter.”

Syria has been wrecked by more than a decade of a devastating conflict, that shows no sign of ending. One of the worst hit areas is the last opposition pocket in the country in the north-west where many struggle to secure their basic needs like food and medication.

Nearly three million people internally displaced from other parts of Syria live there, among them 1.6 million  in overcrowded squalid camps.

If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone free of charge over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.