CHEER­FUL BOY’S SUI­CIDE A SHOCK

He might have en­dured pro­longed de­pres­sion af­ter death of fos­ter fa­ther 3 years ago

New Straits Times - - News -

CHUAH BEE KIM JO­HOR BARU news@nst.com.my

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.”

JA­MALUDIN PIC BY MOHD AZREN

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid (left) talk­ing to Muhamad Ariel Hafiz Yahsin’s fos­ter mother, Sapiah Omar, in Ma­sai on Fri­day.

Farah Sidin

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