CHEERFUL BOY’S SUICIDE A SHOCK
He might have endured prolonged depression after death of foster father 3 years ago
CHUAH BEE KIM JOHOR BARU firstname.lastname@example.org
THE case of 12-year-old Muhamad Ariel Hafiz Yahsin who was found hanged at his Felda Cahaya Baru Masai home on Wednesday, due to alleged depression, comes as a big shock to his family and teachers.
For his family, the death of the cheerful boy did not make much sense.
Ariel’s death has also put in focus the issue of depression among teenagers and children.
An expert said it could be difficult for parents and teachers to identify symptoms of depression among youngsters, adding that it was likely that Ariel might have endured a prolonged bout of depression after the death of a close family member.
Ariel was the youngest of three siblings. He has two elder sisters, and he was schooling at SK Cahaya Baru, Masai.
The boy’s foster mother, Sapiah Omar, 60, was griefstricken and could not comprehend what could have led her son to take his life.
“I admit that since his (foster) father died three years ago, my son was sad. He was a doting father. But I, with Ariel’s uncle and two sisters, showered him with love,” said Sapiah, who was running an errand at a shop when the incident occurred.
She said she always fulfilled Ariel’s wishes, and had even bought him a mobile phone and bicycle.
She added that despite her son’s apparent cheerfulness, he was a quiet boy and did not complain much.
“I am dumbfounded by the incident. We loved him and gave him whatever he wanted,” said Sapiah.
Seri Alam district police chief Superintendent Jokhiri Abdul Aziz said a female relative had found the boy hanging with an electric cable tied around his neck to a pipe in a ceiling at the house’s kitchen.
Police received a distress call after the 4.25pm incident on Wednesday and despatched a team to the scene. Upon arrival, they found that Ariel’s body had been brought down by neighbours.
He was pronounced dead at Masai Health Clinic.
Investigations revealed that he was at home with the relative, and he had told her that he was going to take a bath.
She sensed something amiss when Ariel did not come out of the kitchen for half an hour, and later found him hanging in the kitchen.
“A post-mortem was conducted on him and it was found there was no foul play. The case was investigated under a sudden-death report,” said Jokhiri.
Ariel’s family members told police that the boy suffered from depression since the death of his foster father three years ago.
His elder sister, who did not want to be named, said she often took him to her house in Taman Cahaya Masai during school holidays and weekends.
“He had no problems at school. Even though he was a quiet boy, he loved to sing in his room,” she said.
When met by the New Sunday Times, Ariel’s teachers — Rashidah Mohamad, 41, and Farah Sidin, 36 — said Ariel had a good character and that was why he was appointed as a school librarian.
“He got along well with other pupils, especially girls. He had many friends who were girls. He loved singing. I am shocked when I learned of his death,” said Rashidah, who taught him English.
Malaysian Paediatric Association president Dr Thiyagar Nadarajaw said findings from police investigation indicated that the boy might have endured a prolonged period of depression after the death of his foster father.
“A person will feel grief following any death or tragedy for four to six weeks after the incident. But if that person continues to feel grief after six weeks and the condition prolongs to six months, it is considered depression.
“In Ariel’s case, it could likely be a case of prolonged depression after the death of a loved one,” said Dr Thiyagar.
He said identifying symptoms of depression among youth and children was not easy.
“Teenagers are moody and people around them might brush off such reclusive behaviour as being moody.
“However, there are signs to look out for. Children who display changes in their character and become withdrawn and isolate themselves, or those who were once active in studies but suddenly become weak, are signs of depression.
“Teenagers who suffer from it tend to eat less and lose weight,” said Dr Thiyagar, who is also vice-president of the Malaysian Association for Adolescent Health.
Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid, who visited Ariel’s family on Friday, said the ministry was preparing guidelines to help schools staff identify students suffering from depression.
“This is a serious matter and all parties should take note of the problem. We are asking headmasters and district education officers to give due attention to the behaviour of their students.
“For example, how does a teacher look at the development of pupils in the course of one or two years?
“If there are elements of depression (in students’ behaviour), they should be referred to a counsellor or maybe, their parents should be called to the school for a discussion.”
Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid (left) talking to Muhamad Ariel Hafiz Yahsin’s foster mother, Sapiah Omar, in Masai on Friday.