By P.K. ABDUL GHAFOUR
Psychiatrists, academics and religious scholars have urged youth to use social media with caution following reports that such websites are increasing mental problems among Saudis.
Abdul Rahim Al-Habeeb, mental health director at the Health Ministry, said that social media platforms have eradicated the bounds of privacy and have contributed to increasing tension and depression.
According to the ministry, about 25 percent of patients suffer from various mental diseases.
Dr. Francis Xavier, a psychiatrist at the Jeddah National Hospital, explains how social media websites contribute to mental problems among young people, who often establish friendships with strangers and share their personal information and photos.
“Some people share their experience in using drugs and controlled medicine while chatting, leading their friends to become drug addicts,” Xavier told Arab News. He urged parents to keep a close watch on their teenage children and changes in their behavior.
He also warned parents against the tendency of depressed teenagers looking for ways to commit suicide using social media platforms like YouTube. “Some people chat with strangers without knowing their age or gender. This may create problems.”
Xavier, who is also a health quality director, also spoke about cases in which young men harass their female friends when personal relationships fail. “They sometimes blackmail female counterparts, saying they would publish their naked photos.”
He urged parents to establish close relations with their children and make them feel free to discuss their problems.
He indicated that authoritarian behavior often pushes children to make friends with strangers and discuss their problems with them.
Sabitha Rahim, an English language instructor at King Abdulaziz University, said youngsters must be taught how to use social media outlets positively to avoid its negative impact.
“I don’t foresee that social media would have a negative impact if used within a certain comfort level and in a culturally accepted way. Your own value system is your best guide,” Rahim told Arab News.
Social media can be advantageous for students for getting information and updates on science and technology, which are progressing by leaps and bounds.
“When used rightly, this form of media can become an effective learning tool to enhance the overall performance of students and develop a positive outlook toward life. Everything in moderation is best,” Rahim explained.
Saudi authorities have been conducting a national survey for mental diseases since 2011, which focused on six regions. The main reason behind people visiting mental health clinics are depression, hopelessness, fear and a lack of feeling secure.
Al-Habeeb said cases of mental illness among women are more prevalent than among men. Family violence, including mental and physical torture, is the main reason.
“Some women are prevented from education and enjoying opportunities in life, such as having a job and getting married,” he pointed out.
“Women are also denied independence and they have to depend on others in order to get things done,” Al-Habeeb said. He also pointed out that about one third of mental patients admitted at Saudi hospitals are women.
At present, the ministry has allocated 3,000 beds to treat such patients.
He emphasized the importance of religious or spiritual treatment for patients. Men and women should undergo medical tests for mental diseases before marriage to reduce divorce rates. “Many patients refuse to leave hospitals, as they fear the outside world,” he pointed out.