x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Psychiatrist calls for data on suicides

A leading psychiatrist has called on the UAE to compile data on suicides as the international rate climbs.

ABU DHABI // A leading psychiatrist has called on the UAE to compile data on suicide. "Internationally the rates of suicides are going up and it is worrying that the UAE doesn't have any hard numbers," said Dr Yousef Abou Allaban, a consultant psychiatrist from the American Centre for Psychology and Neurology. "We don't know how to target the problem because we don't know how large the problem is."

Speaking before a talk at the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi on Tuesday night, he said the suicide rate globally had exceeded one million people a year and that medical professionals should be aware of the risk factors. "What we see is a lot of people, especially teenagers, attempting suicide, slashing their wrists - both expat and national." His clinic works with up to 15 schools in Abu Dhabi, and he says that at least one or two students from each school has suicidal thoughts.

"Here committing suicide is taboo. We only know about the people who come to our door. What about the people who don't?" Between 1992 and 2000 there were 6.2 suicides in Dubai for every 100,000 people, according to a study in the Journal of Forensic Medicine. Most of the victims were male expatriates, and many were teenagers. People who have suicidal thoughts are often reluctant to come forward, because most religions prohibit suicides.

"There is a possibility, especially in the Arabic community, that they would be less likely to seek help as quickly. The fact that we do not have data here means that we do not know what to do about this." The rising suicide rate has corresponded with the international credit crisis and in this respect the UAE shares many of the same problems as the rest of the world, Dr Abou Allaban said. amcmeans@thenational.ae