In an effort to tackle rising incidences of mental illness among Qatar’s young residents, local health officials said they have begun training teachers to identify possible behavioral issues among students.
Currently, when pupils act out, many schools primarily apply punitive measures – such as detention – to meet the standards set in the Supreme Education Council’s behavioral code, said Dr. Suhaila Ghuloum, a senior psychiatry consultant at Hamad Medical Corp.
While that approach is not unique to Qatar, teachers here are nevertheless missing an opportunity to understand why a student is refusing to follow directions or misbehaving in other ways, Ghuloum added.
Speaking to Doha News on the sidelines of the second World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) in Qatar, she said there is a lack of “psychological mindedness” in schools in this country and abroad.
“There isn’t a recognition of how to address a child who misbehaves in the classroom. It is immediately how to punish a child who is misbehaving,” Ghuloum said.
“Detention might be a very viable step. It is needed sometimes. But there are other issues you should look at. Why did that student behave in that way? If you don’t look into it deeper, you are going to miss most of the cases – if not all – of, for example, depression.”
Ghuloum is leading a clinical team that, as part of a wider initiative, is training secondary school teachers and counselors to recognize and treat behavioral issues in Qatar.
Last year, officials started the program in Qatar’s government-run independent schools. The plan is to roll it out to private schools later this year.
Speaking to Doha News, Ghuloum emphasized that not every child who is behaving differently from his or her peers has a mental illness, and that researchers did not want teachers referring a flood of students to health professionals or making them feel as though they had a disorder.
“Not every child who is lonely has depression … a child who is lonely may have self-esteem issues. A child who is naughty may need attention because he is deprived of attention,” she said.
She added that addressing and treating behavioral problems in adolescents and teenagers could help stop more serious mental health issues from developing.
“This is prevention,” she said.
Mental health in Qatar
There’s no concrete data on the prevalence of mental illness among children in Qatar.
However, other research has previously estimated that one-quarter of teenagers in Qatar suffer from depression.
Dr. Veena Luthra, a consultant psychiatrist at the American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology in Abu Dhabi, said in 2013 that one reason for the high rates of youth mental illness in the Gulf may be the “nanny problem” and newfound wealth in the region:
“A lot of kids here are raised by nannies and the nanny is the primary caregiver,” she was quoted as saying. “I don’t know how much emotional support they’re getting … it’s probably more like putting the child in front of the TV and giving them video games.”
Meanwhile, health officials here have previously estimated that one-fifth of the country’s population is affected by mental illness at any given point in time.
That figure was cited in Qatar’s National Mental Health Strategy, a five-year plan released in late 2013.
Its goals include raising awareness to reduce the stigma around mental illness, making measurable improvements in patient care and fulfilling previously announced promises to improve doctor training and integrate mental health care into primary health centers.
Ghuloum said that while the goals of her program align with Qatar’s mental health strategy, it is a standalone initiative.
Along with rolling out the training program to more schools in Qatar, Ghuloum said her team plans to conduct follow-up assessments to see how much of the training is retained by local educators, and to see if the program results in improved mental health among local students.
In the US this is address in the teachers education during college.
The “nanny problem” and new found wealth? If you had all the money in the world why would you give your kids to someone else to bring up?
lack of discipline and poor parenting skills therefore raising spoiled brats is the issue here. detention won’t work–send them to bootcamps
Love the pic of the “evil” white girl next to “problem child”…When we grew up a good smacking taught us to respect the teachers and allow them to teach us. Discipline and education are done at home or at least the very basics should be already taught when they reach school.
Ah ha, you and musky have similar thoughts, but the problem with smacking is that it can teach the child to avoid punishment without understanding right and wrong during crucial moral formation. What’s interesting in the article is one minute attributing possible cause to nannies, and in the next to the electronic babysitter, ie. the tv etc, both quite different scenarios.
Are you talking about parenting or just quoting from 50 Shades of Grey?
Marquis de Sade…I prefer old skool bdsm.
Hahaha, you’re funny Mr.James ….I agree with Mr.or Ms??. Coco’s last statement, Discipline and education are done at home or at least the very basics should be taught already before they start schooling. To point it out, the child’s mother is considered as the first teacher. Whatever the child learned at home will be brought to school. Whatever kind of attitude the child displays at school, certainly reflects training at home.
Precisely! You can say that again …
Great initiative, mental issues often go undiagnosed and untreated, not just in Qatar and not just in schools, any effort to improve that is great and could help avoid tragic consequences for those affected and people around them. I think a huge challenge is getting parents to be open to such discussions
The problem is parents won’t accept their child has a problem, also at home the child is usually beaten for poor behaviour. Of course they will play up if a teacher rightly doesn’t apply the same punishments a parent does. Kids in Qatar are the same as kids everywhere. They will get away with whatever they can when they can. And it’s always the teachers fault. Same across the world.
Discipline is the key. If you don’t tell your child what’s right from what’s wrong how else could you expect them to know? Also leading by example, but that’s easier said than done.
Leading by example… you said it… and you’re right, it’s not easy!
I’ve heard one saying, “do what I say, but do not do what I do”.
Any teachers reading this are likely thinking about the discipline divide – where the teacher lives in a bit of fear of their students and the potential retaliation by parents – even for simple things like detention. Can’t use punitive actions if they can’t be applied to some segments of the student population.
Yes, and daddy will come to the school and ‘fix’ it (= teacher is fired)
Was that supposed to be an intelligent remark or you just enjoy finding ways to appear as an ignorant fool?