As many of you have read over the last few months, we’ve been covering the topic of suicide in Islamic thought. Through this series of articles, we’ll explore the theology, law, and treatment of suicide ideation. The goals of this article series, as stated previously, is to not only present how Muslim theologians and jurists dealt with the topic of suicide, but how community workers and individuals can handle situations ranging from counseling someone with suicidal thoughts to handling the emotional fall-out of a love one performing suicide.
You can read the previous installments of this series through these links.
For this installment, I’m happy to present a guest post by Sakinah Kaiser on “Suicide Ideation: Causes and Counseling”. Sakinah is a mental health advocate, and Crisis Counselor with Crisis Text Line 741-741 and trained in suicide first aid.
Suicide is the act of taking one’s own life. There isn’t one sole factor in a person’s decision to end their life. Common causes in suicide may be psychiatric illness, impulsivity, substance abuse, trauma, family history of suicide, trouble in relationships (family, friends, work, etc.), cultural issues, being diagnosed with a serious or terminal condition, grief/loss, and so on. Certain people are more prone to suicidality than others, particularly if they live with multiple risk factors at one time.
Suicidal feelings and ideation often isn’t about wanting to die. It’s about wanting the emotional pain and turmoil to end. And when you’re in that state, you don’t feel as though it ever will. The trick of depression and suicidal feelings is that your mind tells you these feelings will last forever. You don’t have the capacity to believe in a better tomorrow. In fact, there is no tomorrow when you’re in the throes of these emotions.
An important point to remember is that clinical depression isn’t the only reason people choose to end their lives. It’s also simplistic to assume that a person is just sad and has fallen into typical despair. This isn’t necessarily the case. Despair is a key presenting symptom of both unipolar and bipolar depression and can be seen in patients with other psychiatric illnesses as well. It must be treated under the umbrella of one’s overall psychiatric make up.
Suicide can also be the result of a psychotic break. Whether it’s a form of psychosis due to bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or another psychotic issue, some people experience a break in reality that causes them to feel suicidal. The person isn’t able to make life affirming choices at this time, and suicide is the result. So, what can we do about this growing epidemic?
I recently took a training course in applied suicide intervention skills. We learned that suicide prevention is about keeping a person safe, for now, until they can find more permanent resources, and build their own support system. If you live with suicidal feelings, an important part of your support system is your therapist or counselor. There are many types of therapy. Both group and individual. Each person must decide which is best for them and how therapy/counseling for suicidal feelings will play a role in their lives. Here are a few of the different types of counseling a person may utilize: mental health, family, marital, addiction, educational, guidance and career, etc. There are many national organizations in place where people can volunteer and join in the fight to help with suicide prevention. A few are listed at the end of this article.
In a crisis or acute situation, there are a few options to help individuals in need. A person can reach out to trusted friends and loved ones for support or call a national crisis hotline. And also, friends and loved ones can check in on each other regularly, before a crisis occurs. But it’s hard to reach out, when you’re already struggling and feeling like a burden. If we work together as a community, we can tackle the stigma of mental illness and suicide, and hopefully prevent more tragedies.
For more information on suicide and suicide prevention, please visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website @ https://afsp.org/
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Crisis Text Line