Crisis in mental health for Afghan women due to grim future
“I simply want my voice to be heard. An Afghan university student tells us while fighting back tears, “I’m in pain, and I’m not the only one.
The majority of the female students in my class had considered suicide. We all experience anxiety and depression. We are without hope.
The young woman, who was in her early twenties, attempted suicide four months ago as a result of the Taliban government’s December 2017 ban on female students attending universities. A psychologist is now providing treatment for her.
Her statements shed light on Afghanistan’s less obvious but as pressing health crisis.
“Suicidal thoughts are on the rise in Afghanistan. The world hardly ever considers or discusses the worst situation ever, according to psychologist Dr. Amal.
“The hunger crisis is covered in the press, but mental health is never brought up. People seem to be progressively getting poisoned. They are progressively losing hope.
To protect them, the BBC changed or omitted the names of every interviewee in this item.
Within two days of the announcement that women would be prohibited from attending institutions, according to Dr. Amal, she received 170 requests for assistance. She now receives seven to ten fresh calls for assistance every day. Most of her patients are young ladies and girls.
The UN estimates that one in two people, mostly women, in Afghanistan’s fundamentally patriarchal society, which has been battered by four decades of conflict, had psychological suffering even before the Taliban took power in 2021. However, experts have informed the BBC that given the Taliban government’s restrictions on women’s rights and the nation’s economic difficulties, conditions are now worse than ever.
Six families have decided to share their tales with us, despite the fact that it is quite difficult to get people to talk about suicide.
A one of them is Nadir. He claims that on the first day of the new school year in March of this year, his daughter committed suicide.
“Up until that point, she had thought that girls’ schools would ultimately reopen. She was certain of it. But when that didn’t happen, she was unable to handle it and killed herself,” he claims. She was a great student. She wanted to educate and serve our country and was intelligent and thoughtful. She cried a lot and grew very upset when the schools were closed.
Nadir’s voice betrays his agony as he speaks.
“Our way of life has been ruined. I have lost all meaning in my life. I’m at my lowest point ever. My wife is quite upset. She is unable to be in the place where our daughter died, our home.
His family and other people who were quoted in this article have been linked to a mental health specialist.
Dr. Amal, a psychologist (new name, blurred face)
Dr. Amal explains that within two days of the announcement that women would be prohibited from attending institutions, she received 170 calls seeking assistance.
We were told by the father of a woman in her early twenties what he thought led to his daughter’s suicide.
She desired to become a physician. She was distressed and upset when schools were closed,” he said.
But she lost all hope when she was told she couldn’t take the university admission exam. It’s a terrible loss,” he continues, pausing briefly before breaking down in tears.
Similar tales of girls and young women who are unable to handle their lives and see their futures come to an abrupt halt are told to us frequently.
Meher, a teacher with whom we speak, reveals to us that she has made two attempts at suicide.
“I lost my work when the Taliban closed universities for women. I used to provide for my family financially. I am currently unable to cover the costs. I was definitely impacted by that,” she claims. “I was under pressure to get married because I had to stay at home. All of my future goals were completely destroyed. I attempted suicide because I was completely lost and had no aspirations or hope.
We began investigating this situation after noticing numerous articles in regional news portals detailing suicides across the nation.
After Kabul’s universities reopened, a poster with pictures of women was destroyed with spray paint. Image source: Getty Images
In this university poster, women’s faces have been covered with paint. In December of last year, Taliban officials prohibited female students from attending universities.
“The situation is grave and disastrous. However, we are not permitted to collect or access data about suicide. However, I can state with certainty that it’s rare to meet someone who is unaffected by a mental disorder, asserts Dr. Shaan, an Afghan psychiatrist who works in a government hospital.
Two-thirds of Afghan teenagers reported having depressive symptoms, according to a survey conducted in the province of Herat and published in March of this year by the Afghanistan Centre for Epidemiological Studies. There are “widespread mental health issues and escalating reports of suicides,” according to the UN.
The Taliban deny keeping track of suicide rates, and they remained silent when asked about an increase in statistics. Due to the shame surrounding suicide, many families choose not to report it.
Through interactions with numerous people, we have attempted to estimate the severity of the issue in the absence of statistics.
“I feel stupid staying at home without a job or a future. I’m worn out and have no interest in anything. With tears streaming down her cheeks, a teen girl tells us, “It’s like nothing matters anymore.
She made an attempt at suicide. She is with her doctor when we first meet her, and her mother is keeping an eye on her daughter at all times.
We inquire as to their reason for contacting us.
The girl says, “Nothing worse than this can happen, that’s why I’m speaking out.” And I reasoned that perhaps if I speak up, things will alter. I believe that the Taliban should be recognized formally if they plan to maintain their position of power. I think they’d reopen the schools if that happened.
It’s difficult to find someone who isn’t experiencing a mental disease, according to a psychiatrist who spoke to the BBC, thus the situation is severe.
According to Dr. Amal, a psychologist, men are equally impacted, even though women have been hurt harder.
As a man in Afghanistan, you are taught that you should be strong, she claims. But Afghan men are currently unable to shout. They are unable to support their families financially. They are greatly impacted.
And regrettably, because of the way they plot their suicide attempts, men have a higher success rate than women when they experience suicidal thoughts.
We inquire as to what guidance she gives her patients in such a setting.
“Staying socially active is the best approach to help others or oneself. You can go and talk to your friends, visit your neighbors, or put together a support group for yourself, such as your parents, siblings, or friends, she advises.
“I inquire as to who their role model is. If Nelson Mandela is someone you like, he endured 26 years in prison yet, thanks to his morals, he was able to survive and make a difference in the world. So that’s how I attempt to inspire them with faith and fortitude.