Syria is witnessing an alarming rise in suicide among children.
Doctors in Madaya have reported at least six children— the youngest of who was a girl of 12 — and seven young adults have tried to commit suicide in just two months, according to human rights group Save the Children. Before the siege, reports of such cases were almost nonexistent.
Medical staff states hundreds of children living in besieged areas were suffering from mental illnesses like paranoia and depression, which are further exacerbated by the war and their dismal living conditions.
Children living in refugee camps are particularly vulnerable to mistreatment and are even forced into prostitution and early marriages. Given their misery, it’s no surprise many of them seek an out through death.
“When I tried to kill myself, it was like the devil filled my head,” said Khowla, a strikingly beautiful little girl with blank eyes. “I don’t remember much about it. All I could think about was that we have nothing, our lives will never improve, and I could relieve my mother of another burden.”
In February, the little girl tried to kill herself by drinking rat poison and had to spend 18 days in intensive care recovering. When asked by her mother why she committed the act, she said:
“Mama, there are seven of us and you work and work to feed us, but you can’t keep up. Without me, there will be one less person to feed.”
“When she said that, I couldn’t stop crying,” added the mother.
A stunning 41 percent of Syrian youth sheltering in Lebanon say they have suicidal urges, according to United Nations Population Fund. Local NGO workers say they have been unable to compile accurate data on suicide attempts because most Syrians are deeply religious and suicide is considered a grievous sin. But they do agree that cases of suicides are being reported with increased frequency.
Meanwhile, the conflict in Syria has affected 7.5 million children. That’s equivalent to the population of Washington State.