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Suicide in the middle-eastern countries: Introducing the new emerging pattern and a framework for prevention

Mohsen Rezaeian

Professor Mohsen Rezaeian
PhD, Epidemiologist
Social Medicine Department
Occupational Environmental Research Center
Rafsanjan Medical School
Rafsanjan University of Medical Sciences
Email: moeygmr2@yahoo.co.uk


Islamic countries are confronted with a huge increasing dilemma, with increased rates of suicide attempts among adolescents and young married females, and increasingly using fatal methods. This trend should be dealt with as soon as possible. The present article tries to firstly explain the root causes of such trend and secondly to provide a framework for prevention of suicide among adolescents and young married females.

Key words: Islam, Suicide, Prevention

Middle-eastern countries are confronted with a dilemma. On one hand the general rate of suicide is low within these countries. This partially reflects the view of Islam in prohibiting suicide. However, on the other hand these countries are facing an upsurge in suicide rates among adolescents and young married females.

Evidence suggests that suicide is soaring among young people in Islamic countries despite the fact that Islam is against suicide. Unfortunately, evidence further indicates that young people in these countries are carrying out suicide attempts using fatal methods such as self-immolation and hanging.

Why is this dilemma happening in the middle-eastern countries and how can we prevent it? In this article I will try to respond to these two important questions. Nevertheless, first let us to take a closer look at the view of Islam on suicide.

The view of Islam on suicide
There is a verse in the holy Koran which says that: "you should not kill yourself, because god is kind to you". This verse and other similar verses prohibit Muslims from committing suicide. In fact, suicide is seen as an unforgivable sin in the Islamic faith. Muslims should always rely on God. No matter how miserable life is there is always a hope that God sees our life and supports us whenever the time is appropriate. Moreover, Islam is against the root causes of suicide and Muslims learn how to be patient in their lives and therefore, the soaring suicide rate among adolescents and young married females especially who are using fatal methods are completely against Islamic values. So, why is this happening?

Why suicide among youngsters is soaring in the middle-eastern countries
There could be several reasons for this trend. Firstly, it might be possible that Islamic countries are not successful in passing Islamic values and principles to their new generation. Secondly, it might also be possible that youngsters see that some Islamic countries only adopt Islamic law as a shell and they do not apply the core of Islamic values.

For example, Islam is not only against suicide but also against poverty as one of the root causes of suicide and a vast majority of other health problems. Islam carries out its plan against poverty by fair distribution of wealth within the community. Therefore, if an Islamic country follows Islamic law, values and principles the poverty should be eradicated in this country. Nevertheless, there are a vast majority of Islamic countries within the middle-east that suffer from poverty. This happens despite the enormous wealth that these countries inherited by selling their natural resources such as oil and gas. Therefore, youngsters especially males carrying out suicide act using fatal methods such as hanging and self-immolation to show their protest against the unfair economic situations in their societies.

Similarly, the inferior position of females based on traditional cultures of some middle-eastern countries might have a great impact on soaring suicide among young married females. Based on such traditions, the root of which dates back before Islam, females have an inferior position in the society and husbands may even beat their wives.

Some other traditions might allow marrying very young girls to middle-aged or old men or even allow a husband or his family members to maltreat a young married girl. It is important to realize that none of these traditions are acceptable by the Islamic values and principles. Nonetheless, such traditions will lead young married females towards depression, mental problems and eventually suicide using fatal methods such as self-burning.

How we can prevent suicide within the middle-eastern countries?
If Islam is against suicide it is because Islam has laws and rules against the root causes of suicide. For example, as it has mentioned earlier, Islam combats poverty. All financial laws of Islam are aimed at the fair distribution of wealth within the community. Similarly, if Islam is against suicide it is because Islam well recognizes other root causes of suicide such as mental illnesses, drug and alcohol addictions. Based on this recognition, Islamic countries were amongst the first countries which developed hospitals for mentally ill people and scientifically studied and treated mental illnesses. Besides, drug and alcohol abuses are also prohibited under Islamic laws.

In the same way, if Islam is against suicide it is because Islam also well recognizes the rights of adolescents, females and minorities in the society. Under Islamic laws no one should be able to maltreat other members of society including vulnerable groups such as children, elderly, minorities and females. The problem is that sometimes these kinds of maltreatments which have rooted in traditions rather than faith are considered as Islamic values and laws. Therefore, it is highly important to distinguish between traditions and true faith in Islamic countries.

Concluding remark
To sum up, if Islamic countries would like to solve the current dilemma of having high suicide rates among adolescents and young married females using fatal methods, they should battle with the root causes of such trends including: poverty, ignorance, not recognizing the rights of females and minorities, mental illness, illiteracy, etc. Moreover, if Islamic countries follow pure Islamic values and principles rather than traditions and cultural issues, they will become successful in their battles against suicide and its root causes.

Some further reading
Rezaeian M. Why it is so important to prevent self-immolation? Burns. 2013; 39(6): 1322-3.
Rezaeian M. Epidemiology of self-immolation. Burns. 2013; 39: 184-186.
Rezaeian M. Methodological issues and their impacts on suicide studies. Middle East J Business. 2012; 7(2) :17-19.
Zarghami M. Selection of person of the year from public health perspective: promotion of mass clusters of copycat self-immolation. Iran J Psychiatry Behav Sci. 2011; 6(1):1-11.
Shah A, Chandia M. The relationship between suicide and Islam: a cross-national study. J Inj Violence Res. 2010; 2(2):93-7.
Rezaeian M. Suicide among young Middle Eastern Muslim females: The perspective of an Iranian epidemiologist. Crisis 2010; 31 :36-42.
Rezaeian M. Islam and suicide: a short personal communication. OMEGA 2008-2009; 58 :77-85.
Rezaeian M. The age and sex suicide pattern in the Eastern Mediterranean Region based on the global burden of Disease estimates for 2000. East Mediterr Health J. 2007: 13: 10-17.
Afifi M. Adolescent suicide in the Middle East: Ostrich head in sand. Bull World Health Organ. 2006; 84: 260.
Lester D. Suicide and Islam. Arch Suicide Res. 2006; 10(1):77-97.
Campbell EA, Guiao IZ. Muslim culture and female self-immolation: implications for global women's health research and practice. Health Care Women Int. 2004; 25(9):782-93.
Lester D. Islam and suicide. Psychol Rep. 2000; 87(2):692.