In Australia, suicide is the leading cause of death among those aged between 15 and 44, and there is an average of 8.3 deaths by suicide each day (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare , 2020). The World Health Organisation has reported every 40 seconds, a person dies from suicide somewhere in the world (WHO, 2019).
Within the Muslim community, suicide prevention is greatly affected by Islamic spirituality and beliefs. A significant factor is the prohibition of suicide in Islam. There is an understanding in Islam that life is a gift from Allah, and we are thereby compelled to care for it.
An additional factor is the belief in the afterlife, as the view in Islam is that this life on earth is temporary, which for many eases their pain, loss, and grief.
“…And do not kill yourselves [or one another]. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful.” (Quran 4:29)
Although suicide is forbidden in Islam, it does occur amongst Muslims. There are a multitude of reasons why people may consider suicide. It may be a single triggering event, or a build-up of numerous factors. Some reasons people may consider suicide may be to escape from painful feelings or hopelessness, traumatic experiences, feelings of failure, shame, or guilt, they may be experiencing significant mental health issues or financial distress. Circumstances and reasons are unique to every individual.
Often there are clear warning signs for suicidality, although it is common for individuals to conceal their suicidal ideation where it may be difficult to recognise. An example of warning signs could be isolation and withdrawal, negative affective states (eg, distress, fear, sadness, lethargy, disgust), appearing disconnected, spiritual disconnection, psychosis, irrational thinking or preparing for dying (eg, creating a will, ensuring the needs of the family will be met).
It is important to acknowledge the risk for suicide increases when there is a family history of depression and/or suicide, history of abuse, personal history of past suicide attempts and untreated mental health concerns (e.g., depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder).
”O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” (Quran 2:153)
If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, it is important to remember you are not alone in this, and help is always there if you reach for it. Many people at one point in their life have had suicidal thoughts. Here are some important steps you can take when you are feeling suicidal:
- Reach out for help: There are many people and services that can support you through this. It can be extremely daunting to take the first step, but do not allow embarrassment or shame stop you from seeking support.
- Eliminate access to dangerous items, for example sharp objects, drugs, medications, and firearms. Place them out of reach or ask a trusted person to remove them for you.
- Avoid substances including drugs and alcohol, as they may exacerbate your impulses and increase negative feelings and risk-taking behaviour.
- Create a safety plan: The best time to do this is when you are feeling calm and settled. It is best to utilise the help of a professional or a support person so they can guide you through the process and review the plan. Hayat Line has a safety plan you can use, available at https://missionofhope.org.au/.
It can be a difficult experience when someone you care about shares their thoughts of suicide with you. It should be recognised as a blessing that the individual had enough strength and trust to reveal this. Third parties play an important role in supporting someone who is suicidal. Here are a few ways to help:
- Be gentle and calm and be upfront when asking questions– this will allow you to gather information about plans and intentions which aid in risk assessment.
- Do not pass judgement, fight, or act shocked by their plans.
- Encourage them to see a health practitioner and seek out support.
- Look for warning signs (as mentioned above)
- Take them seriously. Oftentimes those who are experiencing suicidal ideation are not taken seriously, or as seen as ‘attention-seeking’ which creates a barrier in sharing their thoughts.
- Offer support. Be empathetic and understanding. Create a space where they can feel comfortable and safe to discuss their thoughts of suicide. Provide reassurance and let them know how much you care for them.
The reality is that many Australian Muslims experience thoughts of suicide, therefore it is best to openly discuss these issues in community spaces. This will create a safer space in which individuals struggling with suicidality may find easier to reach out and get the support they require.
“Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear” (Quran 2:286)
If you, or someone you know, is having suicidal thoughts and is in immediate danger, please call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.
Hayat Line – 1300 993 398 – Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm
Lifeline – 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800
Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636
Mental Health Line – 1800 011 511
MensLine Australia – 1300 78 99 78
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare . (2020, July 23). Causes of death. Retrieved from Australia’s health 2020: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/causes-of-death
World Health Organisation. (2019, September 9). Suicide: One person dies every 40 seconds. Retrieved from World Health Organisation: https://www.who.int/news/item/09-09-2019-suicide-one-person-dies-every-40-seconds