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Child suicides surge in Turkey’s earthquake zones, psychologist warns

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Children in earthquake-stricken regions of Turkey are experiencing a dramatic rise in suicide attempts, with some as young as 8 years old, according to Dr. Yeşim Ünal Kılıç, who spoke before the parliamentary Human Rights Subcommittee on Children’s Rights, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported.

The subcommittee convened on Wednesday to address the dire situation of children in earthquake-stricken regions.

Two major earthquakes that struck 11 provinces in Turkey’s south and southeast in February 2023 left more than 53,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands injured or displaced while causing massive devastation.

Dr. Kılıç delivered a stark report highlighting the alarming increase in child suicides and suicide attempts. “Our experts are observing a significant rise in suicide cases, with the age of those attempting suicide dropping dramatically,” Dr. Kılıç said. “We are talking about children as young as 8 years old attempting suicide, especially in rural areas affected by the disaster.”

An academic at Haliç University who has been involved in fieldwork with the International Medical Rescue Teams Association (UMKE) since the earthquakes, Dr. Kılıç emphasized the severe psychological impacts on children separated from their families. “We are seeing more serious mental health issues in children staying in shelters, those with limb losses and chronic illnesses and those without guardians,” she said.

She also highlighted the lack of play areas in container cities and inadequate lavatory facilities leading to high rates of bed-wetting among children. Bullying is also prevalent, exacerbating the mental health crisis in these areas.

Dr. Kılıç noted a rise in substance use among adolescents aged 13-18 and expressed concern about the number of disabled children in the disaster zone.

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