Teens in Dubai driven to suicide by family issues

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Domestic problems, divorce and custody battles are the main reasons behind these attempts by teens to harm themselves.- Alamy Image
Domestic problems, divorce and custody battles are the main reasons behind these attempts by teens to harm themselves.- Alamy Image

11 teenagers in Dubai attempted suicide in 2017 due to domestic problems

By Marie Nammour

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Published: Tue 20 Feb 2018, 7:17 PM

Last updated: Wed 21 Feb 2018, 11:40 AM

In a worrying trend, there has been an increase in the number of suicide bids by teenagers in Dubai in recent times, say legal officials.
Domestic problems, divorce and custody battles are the main reasons behind these attempts by teens to harm themselves, a chief prosecutor revealed to Khaleej Times.
Advocate-general Mohammed Ali Rustom Bu Abdullah, Family and Juvenile Chief Prosecutor, said his prosecution has investigated several suicide cases by teenagers, in which domestic problems were the main factor to blame for their actions. "There has been an increase in suicide bids by teenagers in Dubai. Statistics have revealed that the Family and Juvenile Prosecution investigated 11 cases in 2017, which is a remarkable jump from the last few years. Most of the attempts to end lives were by expatriate youngsters," advocate-general Bu Abdullah said.

Domestic issues are driving cause

According to the counsellor, most cases originated from domestic problems. "The youngsters try to harm themselves sometimes in a desperate attempt to seek attention. They feel ignored and marginalised. They feel torn apart between their parents and need affection. They don't have anyone to talk to at home and their attempts stem from long-held back inner frustration."
He added: "Divorce and custody battle between the parents put enormous pressure on the children and they get ignored down that road. Each side seeks their best interest, while the child's welfare is ignored. Consequently, the teenager, entirely dependent on his parents, suffers mentally from their disputes and then tries to harm himself.
"We had cases in which the parents did not take the best interest and well-being of their children into consideration, especially when they are at a very delicate age when their personalities start to take shape," the chief prosecutor added.

Case studies conducted

The case study is a process that comprises questioning the parents, the minor, and referring him/her to a forensic medical examination. The forensic medicine report results determine the next step for investigators.
"Sometimes, we include the parents as the accused in the case, if the medical examination report concludes there is torture or physical abuse of the minor, or if it is a beating which goes beyond being a disciplinary act.
"If it is (unusual) negligence of their caregiving and nutrition duties towards the child, it will consequently invite criminal charges against the parent involved. If the abuse is deemed an offence, one parent or both of them will be referred to the Family Court. The parents will stand trial at the Court of First Instance, if their actions are a crime as per the law," the chief prosecutor pointed out.
The teens most often resorted to overdosing on pills or cutting their wrists. During questioning, the minor might say he did not mean to commit suicide but rather draw attention to his mental suffering. However, the forensic report will then prove if the minor is telling the truth. For instance, if they slash their wrists, the severity of the cut would indicate their real intentions.
The Juvenile Court judge decides on the penalty to be given to the minor. The judge will decide to place the minor with the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children, if it is proven that the parents' disputes are to blame for the suicide bid. "The parents should provide a guarantee and pledge they will treat their child right before getting them back again," the advocate-general noted.

Mental issues may play a part

If it is proven the teen's bid was due to mental issues, they would then be referred to a psychiatric institution. In the meantime, the social worker will follow up on the case and draw up a report. "It is a case-by-case study and it all depends on how cooperative the teenager and their families are with the investigator and social worker. Even though the investigation takes an average of one to two weeks, the social worker's follow-up on the minor's improvement - essentially his mental health and wellbeing - continues afterwards," Bu Abdullah stressed.
Apart from prosecutors, the Family and Juvenile Prosecution has on board four social workers and a section head, who are all women. The advocate- general advises teenagers to reach out to the public prosecution and report any abuse by anyone, including their parents, to get the help they need.
The teenagers in distress can also always seek help from other government bodies, including the Child Rights Department at the General Directorate of Human Rights, Dubai police, and the Community Development Authority. Those bodies have their own specialists who study the cases and send reports to the public prosecution.

Relevant legal penalties

According to the 1976 Federal Law on Delinquent and Homeless Juveniles, if the juvenile is under 16, one or more arrangements should be applied to them as per article 15 of the law. If he/she is over 16, in addition to those arrangements, the juvenile may be jailed as per the discretion of the judge.
If he is mentally unstable, he may be placed in a specialised institution or hospital. Otherwise, if he is mentally sane but delinquent, the judge may order him to be detained at the juvenile prison in Al Aweer, where there is also a psychiatric ward.

Article 15 (of the Federal Law on Delinquent and Homeless Juveniles)

Procedures that can be taken regarding a juvenile
1-Reprimanding (blaming and scolding the juvenile during the court hearing and urging him or her to walk down the right path)
2-Hand over (to a parent or to the family member who holds the custody. If they are not capable of taking care of him or her, they will then be handed over to the family member who is fit to do so)
3-Judicial probation
4-Banning the minor from visiting some places (that may have a bad influence on his/her behaviour)
5-Banning him/her from doing some activity
6-Committing the minor to an occupational training
7-Placing the minor in a specialised treatment, rehabilitation or educational institution or a reformatory establishment, depending on the circumstances

Pursuant to Article 335 of the Federal Penal Code:

>The fact that the person who committed suicide was under 18, or if they couldn't be deemed fully responsible for and aware of their acts, shall be considered an aggravated circumstance. The person, who incited them thereto, shall be charged with murder or attempted murder, depending on the case, if the teen was not mentally stable.
> 2017 / 11 cases*
> 2016 / 3 cases
> 2015 / 3 cases
> 2014 / 1 case
> 2013 / 2 cases
> 2012 / 4 cases
> 2011 / zero cases
> 2010 / 1 case
(*10 expats, including 5 girls, with 1 Emirati girl)
> 2017 / 1 female expat
> 2016 / no cases
> 2015 / no cases
> 2014 / no cases
> 2013 / 2 cases
(both expats: a boy and a girl)
> 2012 / 1 male expat
(*unclear if these were repeat attempts)

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