Suicide rates have risen in Algeria in an alarming way with official cases amounting to 2,191 attempts in 2011, of which 300 managed to take their own lives. Even more alarming is the fact that the phenomena has extended to children with 15 of them committing suicide in one single month.
Despite the remarkable increase in the number of Algerians who have taken their own lives, official statements still refuse to raise suicide to the level of a phenomenon.
In a seminar entitled “Islamic means of combating suicide,” Algerian Minister of Religious Affairs Abu Abdullah Ghulamallah admitted that the numbers are “scary,” but they are still incidental and will only develop into a phenomenon if not properly combated.
Specialists, however, begged to disagree especially as far as children are concerned. Children, they argued, have not yet been exposed to the hardships of life and that is why it is extremely disturbing that they choose to kill themselves especially in painful ways like self-immolation, hanging, or poisoning.
In March alone, 15 children committed suicide; three of them came from the city of Tizi Ouzou in the central north.
What specialists saw as the most striking detail was that the three children came from the same village and hanged themselves on the same day without leaving behind any clue as to why they did so.
Some of the others made it a point to kill themselves, especially by self-immolation, inside their schools and in front of their classmates.
Sociology professor Samia Kattoush says Algeria is going through a tough time as it recovers from a decade of violence and terrorism.
“According to sociology theories, when you live in a society that has witnessed massive violence, your behavior is affected and it takes you years to return to normal,” she told Al Arabiya.
Kattoush refused to call children’s suicide coincidental and argued that many factors can drive children to take their lives.
“Family is an important factor. Parents are busy earning a living and do not give enough care to their children and are not around most of the time. They think they can make this up with brining children gifts, but this does not work.”
School, she added, is another important factor since most schools curb children’s creative skills and do not give the chance to express themselves freely.
“This repression drives children to retaliate against those who repress them by killing themselves in order to make them feel guilty.”
Kattoush points out that technology also plays a major part in making children think of suicide.
“Computers and the Internet make children isolate themselves from their surroundings and become satisfied with living in a virtual world. This eventually leads to depression followed by suicide.”
Computer games, she noted, are also dangerous because of the way they present violence as the best means of solving problems.
“When children try to apply that in reality and fail, they become violent with themselves,” she concluded.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)