With reporting from Alanna Alexander
More teenagers in Qatar are having trouble coping with their everyday lives, with nearly one out of four suffering from depression, mental health experts have found.
“It is a very high number and it isn’t normal,” said Anita Kennedy, a psychologist who works at HOPE Qatar, an educational institution for children with special needs.
The problem appears to be regional. A study of nearly 1,300 students released earlier this week found that one out of five teens in Dubai show elevated signs of depression.
According to the National, both the “nanny problem” and newfound wealth contribute to the problems of children growing up in the UAE.
Dr. Veena Luthra, a consultant psychiatrist at the American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology in Abu Dhabi, told the newspaper:
“A lot of kids here are raised by nannies and the nanny is the primary care giver,” she said. “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.”
Kennedy said the same holds true for Qatar.
“Wealth has made them lose the joy of parenting. Somehow, parents have begun to see it as someone else’s job.” Kennedy added that children in Qatar are treated as independent individuals too early, so that they no longer feel like approaching their parents with problems.
“Parents want to give their children everything they want and now they can afford it,” she added, giving an example of spoiling children with toys that they aren’t mature enough to use yet. “Money has come and the whole system has changed.”
Tackling the problem of teen depression starts at home, with more open communication between parents and their children, mental health experts said.
Several teens, however, told Doha News that they would prefer talking their problems over with friends instead of their parents, in part because their peers better understand the stresses they face.
But schools could step in and help everyone get on the same page, Kennedy suggested:
“Schools should hold seminars to inform parents about what is going on with the kids that they teach to let them know what cautionary measures they can take.”
In addition to providing counseling services to students and parents, schools should also push physical activity, doctors told the National.
“Mental health is not only about depression, you have a lot of things such as anxiety and stress, a lot of problems and diseases,” (Dr. Bin Ahmad Ali) said. “And some of the very important buffers inside the school are physical and extracurricular activities.”
Credit: Photo for illustrative purposes only by Lloyd Morgan