Following the suicide of a Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q) pupil last week, health and wellness counselors across Education City have been imploring students to seek help in times of need.
The deceased, who Doha News is not naming out of respect for his family, was a Computer Science sophomore and an avid musician. He had taken the semester off and was living in Saudi Arabia prior to ending his life last week.
The student left a suicide note on Facebook on Sept. 1, saying that he was “done with it all” and that he was sorry for disappointing friends and family.
Depression among young people is not uncommon, with research suggesting that one-quarter of teenagers in Qatar suffer from the mental illness.
In recent years, health officials have been working with educators on identifying possible behavioral issues among students and trying to address them without punishment.
But getting young people in Qatar to seek help when they feel depressed remains a challenge, experts said.
Speaking to Doha News, Patricia Collins, a counselor at Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q), said that talking to a therapist is still seen as taboo among many.
“We’re in a culture that doesn’t have a lot of exposure or practice at opening (up). We keep it in the family. We think that it makes us look a certain way if we have problems.
There’s a pervasive stigma related to health seeking behaviors. There is a faulty belief that only crazy people go here. Yes, we do work with people who have serious emotional issues, but we also deal with people who are dealing with loss and grief, adjustment problems, performance anxiety. We need to tear down the walls that keep people from seeking help.”
Collins, a long-time college counselor with over 25 years of experience working with students in the US and in Qatar, added that depression, anxiety and relationship concerns were the top three treatable mental health issues that students faced.
“Untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide,” she said. “People do not think about suicide unless they’re suffering from clinical depression, which is treatable. Once treatment starts, people start feeling better in four to six weeks.
According to NUQ’s student publication the Daily Q, a special gathering was held at the Education City residences some two days after the CMU-Q student’s death.
Over 100 students, professors, and counselors came together to remember his life and talk about mental health issues prevalent in the community.
Following last week’s suicide, Collins and other counselors are encouraging students to seek help for mental health related issues, a move that she said is often decried as a sign of weakness or instability.
NU-Q and Texas A&M University in Qatar routinely offer a specialized suicide prevention course called QPR, which trains friends and family members on how to identify possible signs of depression and encourage their loved ones to seek help.
“Nothing is foolproof, but if someone is hurting and thinking about ending their life, just asking the question ‘are you thinking of ending your life’ lowers the risk,” Collins said, continuing:
“It’s so simple, but so difficult because it’s not part of our language. It’s not part of our repertoire. We don’t ask people things like that. But if we can do it, it lowers the risk of this impulsive act happening and decreases the anxiety that comes with it.
You’re (also) going to open up the door to talking about it…that’s what QPR teaches you – how to ask the question, how to persuade them to get help and how to give a good referral to professional services.”
In her two years at NU-Q, the counselor estimated that some 100 students and faculty members have undergone the training, though attendance varies significantly from session to session.
At the most recent training, held only a few days after the CMU-Q student’s death, only two people showed up.
With September being Suicide Prevention Month in the US, and Oct. 10 being World Mental Health Day, Collins said that she hopes to continue to engage students in healthy conversation about mental health issues.
“We’re trying to challenge people’s belief systems, which is always hard. People don’t want (to be seen) as weak, (but) if we can challenge some of the beliefs that people have about seeking help, then they will seek help more.
It’s going to take a long time, but I think that we can begin by challenging young minds so that it makes a difference (not only) to them but also to their children and their children’s children.”
Mental health awareness
Social stigma related to mental health issues is not uncommon in Qatar, where despite affecting a fifth of Qatar’s population, very few seek treatment.
In 2013, Dr. Salih Ali al-Marri, assistant secretary general of Medical Affairs at the Supreme Council of Health (SCH), said:
“A study of public perceptions of mental health issues conducted in Primary Health Care Centers has shown that stigma exists in Qatar and that shame and fear of stigmatization often deters individuals and their families from acknowledging mental health issues, and seeking treatment and support. This leads to unnecessary hospitalization and prolonged illness.”
However, the SCH also announced a new five-year National Mental Health Strategy under the theme of “Changing Minds, Changing Lives,” aimed at improving Qatar’s mental health services and eliminating the surrounding stigma.
Plans outlined in the strategy include a new mental health law that should be enacted by December 2015, Al Marri said.
According to the SCH report, some 18 percent of Qatar’s total population has had depression at some point, a number that rises sharply the younger the resident is.
However, only a relatively small percentage of the affected seek help, with 25 percent of Qataris and five percent of expats using HMC’s psychiatric services in 2011.
To quote this student’s note is disgusting and a new low for Doha News. How insensitive to this student’s family, friends and loved ones. This was not intended to be a news item for your hit count. Extremely disappointed and repulsed by this piece and this journalist.
Whatever brings traffic.
I’ve been a regular reader and contributor to Doha News for 6 years. In my opinion there is nothing about Shabina or any of the other DN staff that has ever suggested they would post stuff for cynical reasons. And bringing traffic to the page is the name of the game…it’s called business. Unless you’d like to pay to view there’s no other option.
Those that were directly affected by this story already know the outcome; I think the intent was to share the signs of someone contemplating suicide so if you see similar remarks on your friends’ social media accounts, you can take action. Nobody likes to talk about it, but if it was my loved one, I would ensure that others were aware of the signs so it could possibly prevent another tragedy.
I agree and the intent is a good one, especially in this kind of environment. To post something taken from behind a friends-only wall on social media is unethical and poor journalism that they couldn’t make their point without it.
Wow. We actually spent a week reporting on this story so that it would be full of useful information regarding mental health issues among college students and how people can help.
Our intention certainly wasn’t to include the note to titillate and garner pageviews, but rather show the perspective of a suicidal person. However, we have now removed it so as not to cause any further distress to the student’s loved ones.
Depression is an illness not taken seriously sadly. I pray for this students family and friends during this difficult time.
Enna Lillah we enna Elayhy rage’un… To God we belong and to Him we shall return…
He is depress and he didn’t know how to express himself. Commiting suide is not the solution, talk to your peers or people who is willing to listen to you or a counselor. Oh my….
It’s not easy. You know how difficult it is to find someone with the same mentality as you, and if not, willing to avoid judgement based on what you share?
It’s not difficult you uttered your problems to your friends who are close to you that you are not ashame of.well we can’t avoid the fact that it’s hard to find some institution in handling depression..
I think we should be more understanding instead of expecting that because we find it easy to talk to our close friends, then everyone should find it easy as well. There are different individual factors that may make it difficult for others to share their problems with family members or friends. And sometimes merely sharing is not enough, particularly if a person already has severe depression. There needs to be greater understanding, acceptance and support from the community to encourage people with mental illness to seek professional help.
It’s easy to tell people to seek help here, but do we even have any good therapists / psychiatrists in Qatar? And how many?
It’s ironic that a Psychiatrist I personally know here in Doha is backed up with appointments from morning to night and is on call at the weekends too, numbers of professionally qualified people in this field are in short supply. ……….it’s a far more serious issue than many people realise and affects all ages.
You want some more scary stats from the US National Alliance on Mental illness ;
*Four million children and adolescents in this country suffer from a serious mental disorder that causes significant functional impairments at home, at school and with peers. Of children ages 9 to 17, 21 percent have a diagnosable mental or addictive disorder that causes at least minimal impairment.
*Half of all lifetime cases of mental disorders begin by age 14. Despite effective treatments, there are long delays, sometimes decades, between the first onset of symptoms and when people seek and receive treatment. An untreated mental disorder can lead to a more severe, more difficult to treat illness and to the development of co-occurring mental illnesses.
*In any given year, only 20 percent of children with mental disorders are identified and receive mental health services.
Consequences Of Untreated Mental Disorders In Children And Adolescentsv (Suicide)
Suicide is the third leading cause of death in youth ages 15 to 24. More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza and chronic lung disease combined. Over 90 percent of children and adolescents who commit suicide have a mental disorder.
Hoping this will be an isolated incident and condolences to the family. Opening your kids room door once in a while and getting them away from the electronics may be a bigger help than we realise…………….Doha is a lonely place for many, truth be said.
From my experience and dealing with students, I’d say that when I was there, Qatar did not have enough well-trained and effective mental health care professionals. I’ll never forget about a friend of mine that wound up at the Psychiatric hospital across from the old Center. He was in their for 2 weeks before we got him out of the country and it was straight out of “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”. And Frankly, Emergency psychiatric services at Hamad Hospital were worse. I do hope it changes.
I can sympathize. I once needed to see a psychiatrist in the
early 2000s to help deal with some personal difficulties I was going through.
My personal physician recommended one in a private clinic that, ironically,
near the Center. I went to see him. His office was very bare and rather small
and depressing. After listening to me, he basically dismissed my problem and
told me I need to get married. He prescribed Prozac for me, which I used only
maybe once. What I really needed was someone to listen to me and help me sort
out my feelings.
Couple years ago, my student counselor in high school told me I was one of the few kids who would talk to them about everything when applying for college. She noticed that a lot of these kids were hesitant but clearly had a lot on their minds. There are so many unspoken rules in the Middle East.
The stigma of mental health is not limited to Qatar. Because it’s hard for mentally healthy people to understand it is worldwide.
From myrepublica: “A total of 44 Nepali nationals have committed suicide in Qatar, since the start of 2010, making Nepal the third worst country in terms of suicide rate in the Gulf nation, cautions the international organization working for human rights.
Migrant workers from Sri Lanka first and India top the list of migrant workers committing suicide in Qatar. ”
– See more at: http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=73451#sthash.8zK4Mcd2.dpuf
Exactly, but slaves you see are not worthy of news.
Au contraire: https://dohanews.co/workers-suicide-puts-spotlight-mental-health-issues-among-migrants/
PS This is the last warning about your usage of the word “slaves.” It’s demeaning to lump more than half a million people into such a category.
Your reaction raises an interesting question. Is it demeaning if it is correct by many definitions of slavery? When Qatar is called a ‘slave state’, is that being insulting, or is it just an accurate description by the definition used by some recognized and reputable experts, such as the US State Department? It is quite legitimate to say that the majority of those employed in Qatar, at whatever social status, are considered to be modern day slaves by many organizations. In that light, is the use of the word slave inaccurate? If it is accurate, why couldn’t it be used on DN? You or your spouse are probably considered to be modern day slaves by many organizations, whether you see yourself that way or not.
In 2012 Qatar was to embark on a partnership with Australian Asia Mental Health which featured some very eminent forward thinking academics and practitioners in the field. The purpose was to implement a Mental Health Strategy and subsequent operational programs, awareness etc. However due to typical bickering of high level Qataris it was cancelled during the set up phase, despite highly qualified and experienced staff already working on the project at the Supreme Council Of Health. Perhaps the usual bickering could stop so people on the ground can get the help they need…….just perhaps?
My condolences to the family and friends. Very sad news.
This is really sad.
a semester in Saudi Arabia might not be the ideal place to go if one is feeling depressed..