Suicide Among Youth of Middle Eastern Origin

  • Fayez El-GabalawiEmail author
  • Karim Sedky
  • Racha Nazir


Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among youth worldwide. Its prevalence has been increasing recently in Middle Eastern countries and those recently immigrating from the Middle East (ME), especially among young females. Despite the high correlation between suicide and mental illness, especially depression, there has been a dearth of research on adolescent mental health in immigrants from the ME.

Historically, mental illness has long been described in old Egyptian transcriptions, and the first mental hospital developed in Iraq followed by Egypt and Syria (Okasha. Psych Bull. 1993;17:548–551). However, over the years, there has been less focus on psychiatric disorders, till recent years when a dramatic increase in the incidence of mental illness was noticed. Although this might be partially explained by increased awareness, other factors such as civil wars and economical unrest have also led to elevated emotional complications. Additionally, increased internet use, globalization, and easy access to illicit substances without full awareness of their deleterious effects have led to even more serious consequences. Moreover, easy access to guns and increased trauma caused by wars and extremist activities have led to high incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In the face of mounting economic hardship, political instability, and religious discrimination, many families with young children and adolescents have been trying to escape by immigrating to Western countries. The new stress of acculturation to a very different Western society has significant effect on the whole families and often complicates the developmental needs of the youngsters. Although an expected generational difference occurs as part of normal development, lack of access of appropriate social and religious support further increases vulnerability in the first-generation adolescent immigrants. Awareness of cultural challenges, understanding the dynamic effects of power change in immigrant family structure, and gender differences become integral when developing a management plan for adolescents with psychiatric issues. Additionally, religion plays a major role in the lives of ME people, and its integration in mental health treatment is crucial in a successful outcome. Although treatment of immigrant parents with psychiatric issues is equally important, undertreating adolescents can lead to significant and serious consequences in the foreseeable future.


Adolescents Immigrants from Middle Eastern origin Depression Suicide in immigrants from the Middle East Mortality 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryThomas Jefferson University HospitalPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryCooper Medical School of Rowan University and Cooper Health SystemCamdenUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryDrexel University, St. Christopher HospitalPhiladelphiaUSA

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