Suicidal Ideation: Psychological and Islamic Treatments


When all means to coping with a stressful situation is experimented in vain, a person resorts to ending his life as it seems to be the only way out of the agony. However, there is always a better solution.


ISHRAT MOHI-UD-DIN, KASHMIR

SEPTEMBER 02, 2020

There are no societies in which suicide does not occur”, claims Emile Durkheim. But what causes suicide? Why does it happen? How does one decide to take this extreme step? These are some fundamental questions warranting social analysis and psychological understanding.

Suicide is one of the major causes of death and disability worldwide. It is a major threat to world health. A person commits suicide every 40 seconds with almost 800,000 deaths annually.

In suicide, a person deliberately attempts or wishes to kill himself for varying reasons. Thoughts like ‘I have no value’, ‘I am a burden to my family’, ‘world would be better off without me’ etc. encourage a person to end his life.

Adolescence and suicide   

Suicide continues to be the leading cause of death in adolescents. This age group has difficulty navigating access to care, especially when they are experiencing psychological stress or symptoms of mental illness. In a review paper on adolescence, Robert Crosnoe and Monica Johnson cite E J Susman saying:

Adolescence is a period of rapid change. This change is dramatically crystallized in a flood of hormonal activity and rapid physiological development that constitutes puberty.[1]

Adolescents and young adults with self-reported suicidal ideation have higher rates of psychiatric problems. Many issues associated with adolescents can lead to serious psychological problems including depression which may increase suicidal ideation.

Major risk factors for suicidal behaviour

Various factors that trigger suicidal ideation in a person include physical, social, and psychological reasons. Some of these factors are briefly explained below.

Mental environment: Most suicides are related to mental health issues like depression, substance use disorder, body image issues, social anxiety, and psychosis. Apart from these, eating and trauma-related disorders also contribute to a degree.

Family Environment: Family is the foundation for shaping the personality of an individual. A person needs support and care from the family, lack of which can give way to depression, self-esteem problems, irrational thinking, poor impulse control, psychological distress, and hopelessness. All these factors act as a trigger of suicidal ideation in the person.

Social Environment: Social support has a vital role to play in the physical health and well-being of people of all ages and groups. The absence of social support can increase the risk of suicidal behaviour in a person. This may include discrimination (minorities, LGBTI, etc.), marginalization, prejudice, unemployment, violence, etc.

Community and cultural environment: Communities also have a close association with suicide risk factors. Experiences of natural disasters, wars, and civil conflicts can increase the risk of suicide. Stresses from acculturation and dislocation can significantly increase suicide risk in vulnerable groups including indigenous peoples, refugees, and people confined in detention centres.

Heredity Environment: Genetic factors are recognized as one of the main predisposing factors for suicidal behaviour. Recent studies conducted on families, twins, and adopted children strongly suggest that genetic factors play a role in suicidal behaviour. Any kind of history of parental psychiatric symptoms and disorders can influence their offspring and may become the cause of other psychiatric disorders.

Psychological Treatment 

Initially, the treatment methods for suicidality addressed those conditions which were thought to be its underlying reasons. However, afterwards, studies proved that directly addressing a person’s suicidal ideation is a more effective way. In light of this, many therapies were developed which can have a positive impact on the behaviour of an individual.

Psycho-education: Psycho-education is provided to educate the person with suicidal ideation about the association between one’s suicidal thoughts, urges, and feelings and subsequent behaviour.

Integrated cognitive behavioural therapy (ICBT): This method combines individual and family therapy concerning suicidal youth. Moreover, the cognitive behaviour technique (CBT) with the combination of parent training components helps the person to overcome irrational thoughts.

Attachment-based family therapy (ABFT): This method aims to enhance the quality of attachment bonds through an interpersonal approach to individual and family therapy as well as parent skill training.

Dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT): This method focuses on improving interpersonal relationships, maximizing skills, reducing stress level, controlling emotions, distress tolerance as well as mindful awareness.

Teaching to face and solve problems: Training a person to be able to cope with the issues of life, and face and solve his problems will help in upgrading his life to a great extent.

Community-based programs: Such programs help in reducing segregation, deep-rooted misunderstandings, prejudice, and discrimination, which are major factors of increased suicidal ideation in people who are isolated from society.

Islamic view on suicide

Islam interdicts suicide. Although suicide is frowned upon or condemned by almost all of the world religions, Islam unambiguously prohibits the deliberate ending of one’s life. The Holy Quran says:

And kill not yourselves. Surely, Allah is Merciful to you.[2]

Not only does Islam prohibit suicide, but also sets forth principles following which the suicidal thought in a person is brought down to a minimum, or naught. This may be the reason that suicide rates appear to be significantly lower in Muslim countries as compared to others.

How does Islam contribute to suicide prevention?

Any method that can effectively prevent a person from committing suicide should be employed according to Islam, nevertheless, it itself lays down some principles which minimize rather nullify suicidal ideation.

Contentment of heart is in the remembrance of Allah: In most cases, it is mental distress that leads to suicide. Personal problems, financial difficulties, environmental adjustments, etc. may contribute to mild to severe mental distress in people. In such situations, people consider ending their lives to be the only way out of this agony. However, Islam says:

Aye! it is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts can find comfort.[3]

Hence, whatever the cause of the distress is, a true Muslim will find satisfaction in remembering his Lord, Who possesses the power to solve all problems.

Despair not of Allah’s mercy: Hopelessness is another of the common reasons behind suicide. In the material worldview, when all means to solve a problem are experimented in vain, hopelessness is surely to take root in one’s mind. But for a believer, especially a Muslim, at no stage is he to become completely disheartened. The doors of Allah’s mercy are always open. Allah says:

Say, “O My servants who have committed excesses against their own souls! despair not of the mercy of Allah.[4]

Hence, a true believer in God never gives up his efforts and never resorts to annihilating his self.

Sufferings are inevitable: Sufferings and pain are essential parts of life. As light is invaluable without darkness, happiness cannot be experienced without suffering. This is the philosophy of life in Islam. Facing, and sometimes accepting failure with patience is essential. Allah says in the Holy Quran:

And We will try you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and lives, and fruits; but give glad tidings to the patient. Who, when a misfortune overtakes them, say, ‘Surely, to Allah we belong and to Him shall we return.’[5]

In this way, when a person becomes ready to accept the inevitability of negative instances in life, he will surely develop the courage to endure and overcome them.

Sanctity of life: Man’s moral compass keeps him away from wrongdoings. Good people refrain from evil acts for their concern for morality. However, a person committing suicide thinks he has the complete right upon his life and hence, does not consider it immoral to put an end to it.

But Islam reminds Muslims that they are not the owners of their lives. Instead, life is a trust which Allah has entrusted us with and which is to be preserved at all costs. All the dos and don’ts in Islam are explained on the basis of the protection and enhancement of this life. Even the unlawful things are made permissible when it comes to protecting life. Hence, for a true believer, it is impossible to even harbour a thought of committing suicide, no matter how severe the circumstances may be.

The Promised Messiahas has very beautifully explained to us the philosophy of good and evil, and pain and pleasure. He says:

The pain which pleases God is better than the pleasure which makes Him angry. And the defeat which pleases God is better than the victory which invites the wrath of Allah. Renounce the love which brings you nearer to the wrath of Allah.[6]

Conclusion

Suicide is rarely a spur-of-the-moment decision. In the days and hours before people kill themselves, there are warning signs and indications which hint us that the person is in trauma. Such a person will not be in a position to think rationally as his cognitive process would be completely blocked. All a person needs in such a situation is emotional support, especially from family and friends. If we intervene timely and correctly, we can most probably save his/her life.


Ishrat Mohi-ud-Din is a rehabilitation psychologist from Nasirabad, Kashmir. She completed her Master’s in Psychology from the University of Kashmir and holds a Diploma in Rehabilitation Psychology from the Regional Composite Centre, Bemina, Srinagar, Kashmir.


References

[1] Research on Adolescence in the Twenty-First Century https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5695926/

[2] Holy Quran 4: 30

[3] Holy Quran 13: 29

[4] Holy Quran 39: 54

[5] Holy Quran 2: 156-157

[6] The Will (Al- Wasiyyat) p. 9

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