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Alarming proportions of child and youth suicide in Kazakhstan 26 августа 2014, 18:37

Suicide, especially among children and adolescents, is an alarming problem for Kazakhstani officials. Together with UNICEF Kazakh pscyhiatrists conducted a study into the causes of youth suicide, and the prelimitary results may help address the problem.
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Photo courtesy of psyhologia-online.com Photo courtesy of psyhologia-online.com

Suicide is one of the most common causes of unnatural death in Kazakhstan, according to WTO's 2011 report. Adolescent and young people suicide is a particularly worrying issue.

According to the World Health Organization Kazakhstan is ranked third in the world by the number of suicides committed by young people with over 250 cases a year. Whereas the number of teenage suiciders has tripped in Kazakhstan over the past decade.

For two years Kazakh psychiatrists and UNICEF have been conducting a study into the causes of suicide among children and adolescents in Kazakhstan. You can read more about the study in a piece by Hal Foster.

The preliminary findings were announced at the IV Congress of Psychiatrists, Drug Treatment Doctors, Psychotherapists and Clinical Psychologists of Kazakhstan. The research is ongoing and the final results will be presented in 2016.

Chief Psychiatrist of Kazakhstan Sagat Altynbekov told Tengrinews about the preliminary findings: “These are shocking statistics. With the support of UNICEF, the study has been conducted in five cities of Kazakhstan and looked at 1700 adolescents. The main reasons for why adoleschents commit suicide have been identified: first, these are social problems, primarily in one’s family; next, are problems at school, and anxiousness of children who feel that no one cares to listen to them."

The survey revealed that an average parent in Kazakhstan spends only 20 minutes with each of their children a day. The conclusion was made by Italian experts, who participated in the study.

"Can you imagine they [parents] simply don’t have time: it is either work or chores at home. What is 20 minutes, huh? The rest of the time the child is on his own – at the computer, outdoors or somewhere else. Nobody is listening to him. Here, in Kyzylorda (a city in southern Kazakhstan), we’ve seen a case when a girl asked for help from psychologists and from her parents, she told them that she had problems, a depression, and that she didn't want to live. Nobody heard her, everybody had their own problems to deal with and in the end the girl committed suicide," Altynbekov said.

One the other hand, there has been some progress in Kyzylorda Oblast. During two years of the study the experts registered a positive effect from the special training that teachers, psychologists and doctors in the region were getting. In particular, there was a decrease in the number of completed suicides and repeated suicides due to the improved training of school psychologists, who are supposed to talk to children and identify their problem before dreadful events start happening.

“You know, the first results are very good. In 2012 there were 15 cases of completed suicides (among minors) in Kyzylorda Oblast, but there were only 3 cases in 2013. As for repeated suicide attempts – there has been a 3.5 times decrease,” the chief psychiatrist said.

The study found that about 40-50 percent of children did not realize the gravity of the consequences when thinking about suicide. This is especially true for girls, who expect to scare someone by attempting a suicide and do not fully realize that the act may result in actual dying.

Suicidal communities on the Internet were acknowledged to be a frequent cause of such suicide cases in Kazakhstan. The state authorities are now considering ways to close down such websites or block access to them from Kazakhstan. "By September-October, they promise to close down all such websites. They spell out around 170 ways of how to commit suicide, can you imagine?" Altynbekov shared.

The danger of the Internet in this respect was also pointed out last week by the Akim (Mayor) of Kazakhstan’s capital Astana Imangali Tasmagambetov.

“The Web is an ideal place for all sorts of influences [promoting] aggression or simply irresponsible behavior. Analysis of websites shows that suicide has become a fashionable topic for a large proportion of young Internet users. One can find a ready-made user guide on how to do it, read stories about those who have already tried it, and even find a companion.

"When you enter the word "suicide" in Google search the first 20 results are as follows: approximately 60 percent are websites with general information about possible causes of suicide and per country statistics on gender and age; 20 percent are websites that offer help in resolving situations involving suicide; and 10 percent are websites or forums with a hidden propaganda of suicide and its methods," Tasmagambetov said on August 21. 

Tasmagambetov acknowledged that adolescent suicide problem was gaining “dangerous proportions” in Kazakhstan. Presenting the statistics from the capital Astana as an example, he said that 14 of 89 suicides attempted by minors were lethal.

The Akim also announced the results of a recent poll conducted among Kazakhstani schoolchildren. 35 percent of the surveyed believe that children commit suicides because they feel that adults don't understand them, this includes pressure from teachers.

According to the UNICEF Annual Report 2013 Kazakhstan is leading in suicide rates among children and adolescents in the CEE/CIS region (among post soviet countries), and a large share of all attempted suicides falls on high school students.

The Kazakhstani government has recognized suicide as a major public health issue and is now working out legislative ways to tackle the problem. “The study identified lack of specialized health and mental health services as a major impediment for comprehensive and long-term preventive measures,” the report said.

Reporting by Renat Tashkinbayev, writing by Dinara Urazova, editing by Tatyana Kuzmina


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