Child suicide attempts rise as sieges worsen across Syria

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Rami and his family were living under siege in Syria for several months before they were able to flee.

Our staff in the besieged Syrian town of Madaya have reported a worrying increase in suicide attempts and mental illness among children and young adults.

Denied even basic treatment

Medics in Madaya have told us at least six teenagers – the youngest a 12-year-old girl – and seven young adults attempted suicide recently. That’s compared to almost no cases before July 2015, when the siege started.

Hundreds more people are suffering from psychological problems and mental illness, according to doctors. But they can’t access specialised mental health care, or even basic medical treatment.

Children don’t laugh

Rula, a teacher in Madaya, said the siege is taking a mental toll on children at her school:

“The children are psychologically crushed and tired,” she said.

“When we do activities like singing with them, they don’t react at all, they don’t laugh like they would normally. They draw images of children being butchered in the war, or tanks, or the siege and lack of food.”

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A horrifying mental toll

For the 250,000 plus children living under siege in Syria, more is needed to protect them from the trauma and distress that they’re experiencing on a daily basis.

Sonia Khush, Syria Director for Save the Children, explains that innocent people are paying for the conflict with their physical and mental health:

“The long siege of Madaya and other towns is taking its toll on people’s minds as well as their bodies,” she said.

“The pressure of living under these conditions for years on end without respite is too much to bear, especially for children.”

Human rights, not privileges

Khush continues: “This time the world must not wait for people to starve to death before acting. It is clear that on all sides, civilians are being made to suffer in order to achieve military aims.

“Even in the midst of a brutal war, food, clean water, health care and freedom of movement are rights, not privileges.”

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*Names have been changed to protect identities

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