World Mental Health Day: The fight against child and adolescent self-harm

“We think we are more connected because of social media. Truth is, we are totally disconnected, because we are not communicating live in person,” said Dr. Blaise Aguirre.
by Christy-Belle Geha

11 October 2019 | 07:09

Source: by Annahar

  • by Christy-Belle Geha
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 11 October 2019 | 07:09

Co-founder of Embrace Mia Atoui noted, "he fear of social stigma was the most common barrier to seeking professional treatment” with the highest risk factors being linked to family discord.

BEIRUT: Green ribbons, 10452 supportive notes distributed around Lebanon by Embrace and Annahar, and a psychiatry session at the 24th annual congress of the St Georges Hospital University Medical Center, are some of the initiatives that incited awareness for World Mental Health Day on October 10.

The psychiatry session hosted Dr. Blaise Aguirre and Dr. Rima Saad from McLean Hospital, the psychiatric affiliate of Harvard Medical School, as well as renowned psychiatrists and psychologists who discussed the children and young adults’ different aspects of harmful behaviors and who suggested behavioral therapies. The conference was a collaboration between McLean Hospital, the Lebanese Psychological Association, the Lebanese Psychiatric Society and the Institute for Development, Research, Advocacy and Applied Care (IDRAAC).

“We think we are more connected because of social media. Truth is, we are totally disconnected, because we are not communicating live in person,” said Aguirre. The staff psychiatrist explained that not only social media were the factor linked to teenagers’ mental health problems, but school pressure and peer pressure also highly correlated with these issues. He added that “today’s young people are arguably more self-destructive and more “connected” than ever, thus many are finding that medications are NOT the answer.”

In fact, between 10 and 20 percent of children and young people experienced a mental disorder and these percentages are increasing. Additionally, the main difficulty for suicidal adolescents relies in regulating emotions, the emotional difficulties not meaning to be upset - which is normal -, but “these difficulties are rather a manifestation of a skills deficit.”

Aguirre also elaborated on the importance of integrating Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) far beyond listening to the person or telling them to calm down. DBT prevents self-injury from a very early age, supports new ways of thinking and managing emotions such as building healthy relationships, balancing logic and emotions, increasing awareness in understanding of emotions because the same emotions are never stuck with an individual for the rest of their lives.

Saad added to the DBT two other behavioral therapies: the acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The ACT therapy focuses on relating to painful thoughts and feelings differently, whereas the CBT focuses on challenging thoughts or changing behavior in order to impact experience. She also tackled validation, one of the basic behavioral interventions. In other terms, it is telling others that their “experience makes sense and that we will help you do something useful with it.” According to her, it is all about helping people in explicitly bringing ideas to mind before any other intervention.

Different aspects of harmful behaviors such as the ideation of harm in children and adolescents, self-harm and bullying, self-harm in autism were also brought up during the conference.

“Children involved in any role of bullying are at an increased risk for suicidal and self-injurious behavior in pre-adolescence,” noted Caroline Cordahi Tabet, specialist from IDRAAC.

Dr. Rachad Rayess proposed the hospitalization of the suicidal patient in extreme cases, as well as the necessity of close observation and the removal of weapons like knives, guns and pills, to treat the underlying cause.

Co-founder of Embrace Mia Atoui noted that “the fear of social stigma was the most common barrier to seeking professional treatment” with the highest risk factors being linked to family discord. In fact, 111 documented cases of suicide between January 2019 and May 2019, knowing that actual numbers are expected to be higher since many suicides cases are shadowed by other fabricated death causes because of the stigma.

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Emotional support and suicide prevention hotline in Lebanon: 1564 | For more information, visit: www.embracelebanon.org


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