Expat suicide in Qatar prompts questions over mental health care

Published:  6 Mar at 6 PM
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Tagged: USA
Family members and friends are expressing their grief, shock and concern over the recent suicide of an American expat.

The woman’s name is being withheld for reasons of privacy, but her family and friends are urging expat residents in the emirate to share their opinions and knowledge of mental health matters in order to prevent other tragedies in the future. When approached by local media representatives, the US Embassy in Qatar refused to comment, referring all enquiries to the Qatari authorities.

One close friend told Doha News reporters she’d been aware for some time of the woman’s low points and history of coping problems, with several more who knew the dead woman saying they’d simply not been aware she’d reached a crucial moment, adding that no-one saw this coming.

Another friend remembers her as being full of life and vivacious, and believes her suicide could have been prevented had she taken professional help. It’s normal for expats in Qatar to hide any emotional problems as talking about mental health is seen as a social stigma in Arab culture.

Mental health professionals are aware of the dangers of this attitude, and have launched a public awareness campaign in schools as well as across the emirate. A major problem is that the majority of those in need of help have no idea where to get it as well as being fearful of judgement or reprisals. The act of suicide itself as well as its discussion is considered a cultural taboo, resulting in those contemplating the act having nowhere to turn.

Reports suggest suicide is becoming more common in Qatar’s expat community, with concerns over rising debts and layoffs partly responsible. The entire issue is clouded by the fact that, under Qatari law, attempted suicide is an illegal act, with a conviction resulting in an up to six-year prison sentence plus heavy fines.
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