How To Respond To Suicide In Muslim Communities

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By Rania Awaad, MD, Taimur Kouser, Osama El-Gabalawy, MS

Trigger Warning: This article discusses suicide which some may discover disturbing. If you or somebody is having severe ideas of suicide, please name 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Mental well being is a crucial a part of our Islamic custom, historical past, and legacy. Nevertheless, psychological sickness stays a vastly stigmatized matter in Muslim communities. Like individuals of all faiths and backgrounds,  Muslims expertise psychological well being challenges, psychological sicknesses, and certainly suicidal ideation. Nonetheless, Muslims are inclined to significantly stigmatize suicide. Islam teaches us in regards to the worth of human life in addition to the understanding of hardships and trials on this world, and it clearly prohibits individuals from killing themselves. Despite these teachings, the fact is that many Muslims within the United States and world wide battle with ideas of killing themselves, and plenty of Muslims do die by suicide. Contrary to widespread perception amongst Muslims, religion and prayer alone don’t make an individual resistant to melancholy, ideas of self-harm, or suicide. When a dying by suicide does happen in a Muslim group, we should flip to Islamically grounded and scientifically sound rules on how one can reply.

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It is crucial to first perceive a number of definitions:

  • Prevention are the steps taken to scale back the chance of suicide. However, within the aftermath of a suicide, our focus ought to be on postvention and group therapeutic.
  • Intervention pertains to the direct effort to stop an individual from taking their very own life
  • Postvention are the steps individuals take to answer a suicide after it occurs. These methods emphasize the necessity to save life and assist make sure that group members have entry to applicable psychological well being care providers. After a suicide occurs in a group, psychological well being professionals shift their focus to stopping suicide contagion.
  • Suicide contagion is a well-documented phenomenon by which individuals’s direct or oblique publicity to suicide will increase their danger of dying by suicide too. Suicide contagion may end up in suicide clusters.
  • Suicide clusters are when a number of suicides happen in shut proximity.

Preventing suicide contagion is likely one of the high priorities of a postvention response. Community leaders and group members can all take steps collectively to stop further suicides and help wholesome patterns of communal grieving and therapeutic.

1. DO NOT sensationalize or romanticize suicide

First and foremost, when a suicide happens, it’s important NOT to sensationalize or romanticize the dying. Talking in regards to the location of dying, technique of dying, and particular particulars of a latest suicide are dangerous discussions and ought to be averted. These particulars, though reported in good religion, typically sensationalize or dramatize the tragedy that has occurred. Suicide contagion spreads by individuals and media retailers sharing unfiltered content material on suicide with little to no point out of sources for assist. It is an particularly huge concern in at this time’s world due to how simply issues are shared on social media.

Concrete actions to keep away from embody:

●      NOT re-posting or discussing suicide notes

●      NOT sharing particulars of a particular suicide case

●      NOT discussing the sufferer’s circumstances

●      NOT romanticizing the dying as an answer to what she or he was going by.

Why? Because people who find themselves combating severe ideas of killing themselves could establish with components of those conversations which can encourage them to make an try on their very own life. It is important to NOT contribute to any narratives that normalize or sensationalize suicidal behaviors. Anything that’s shared or mentioned ought to deal with hope, therapeutic, and supply help and sources for individuals who are struggling.   

2. DO NOT speculate or dwell on specifics

Suicide is an immense tragedy, and it is vitally widespread to attempt to make sense of and perceive what precisely occurred. Dwelling on particulars of a suicide, speculating on unsubstantiated experiences, or participating in gossip don’t contribute meaningfully to the therapeutic or the grieving course of. For therapeutic to happen throughout the aftermath of suicide, one should acknowledge that questions will stay unanswered and don’t must be answered. Investigating the main points of the case ought to be left to the authorities and psychological well being specialists. As authorities launch particulars of the case, it’s crucial to not dwell on the specifics of the case. Spending a big period of time analyzing particulars can function a barrier to processing feelings and grieving in a wholesome method. 

3. DO NOT speculate on the non secular implications of suicide

Suicide is clearly prohibited in Islam. This signifies that many individuals start to consider the non secular implications for somebody who has died by suicide. Do they get the janaza prayer? Will they have the ability to enter jannah? Are they nonetheless Muslim? Although it’s comprehensible why individuals have these questions, it’s crucial to keep in mind that Allah (SWT) is the final word decide of what occurs to all of us, irrespective of who we’re, what we have now completed, or how we die. Additionally, we could not know all the elements that contribute to an individual who dies by suicide. People in a suicidal state typically have distorted thought processes and pre-existing psychological sicknesses are implicated in over 90% of suicide circumstances. For these causes, speculating on the non secular implications for somebody who dies by suicide is ineffective and extends past the capability of human beings. The group must deal with therapeutic and responding to a suicide, not on making judgements or assessments of issues that we are going to by no means know with certainty.

4. DO NOT attempt to diagnose an individual who died by suicide

There are a number of elements that contribute to suicidal ideation and conduct. Risk elements for suicide can embody organic elements (like an individual’s genetic make-up or mind chemistry), psychological elements (just like the presence of different psychological sicknesses), social elements (like how related and supported individuals really feel with their households and buddies or how a lot stress they really feel in a given time interval), and even non secular elements (like how individuals take into consideration Allah). There is really no approach to know which of those elements could have brought on an individual to kill themselves simply by studying a suicide be aware they’ve left behind or analyzing features of the individual’s life. For that purpose, it is very important NOT diagnose an individual who has died by suicide. Moreover, making an attempt to take action will be dangerous for the group, jarring for the household, and distracts from what ought to be the primary focus within the aftermath of a suicide – grieving, supporting, and therapeutic. Ibn Umar reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, stated, “Mention what is good about your dead, and refrain from speaking about their evil.” (Sunan al-Tirmidhī 1019)

5. What TO say and NOT to say when consoling somebody who’s grieving

Many occasions it’s difficult to seek out the proper phrases to say to those that are grieving the lack of somebody who dies by suicide. When you meet a loss survivor, somebody bereaved by the suicide of a cherished one, specific sympathy as you’ll for any sudden dying. Those near the sufferer could grapple with a spread of advanced feelings equivalent to grief, worry, disgrace, and anger. Let them lead the dialog and be compassionate when listening and responding. Remember to take heed to the feelings that they’re sharing with you and reply to the feelings you hear relatively than to your individual emotions.

When Sayida Zainab’s son, could Allah be happy with them each, was dying, she referred to as for her father, the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. As the Prophet noticed his grandson battle along with his final breaths, the Prophet’s eyes streamed with tears. Sa’d bin ‘Ubadah stated “O Messenger of Allah! What is this?” Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, replied, “It is compassion which Allah has placed in the hearts of His servants, Allah is compassionate only to those among His servants who are compassionate (to others)”

Here is a short listing of how on how one can console somebody who’s grieving:

6. DO NOT blame one another and DO NOT blame your self

Blame and the notion of “who is responsible” are widespread emotions that come up when somebody dies by suicide. Some individuals (like shut household and buddies) could marvel why they didn’t catch the indicators that their cherished one was eager about killing themselves. Others could ponder whether they might have stepped in or intervened indirectly. Community leaders could also be involved in regards to the state of their group and ponder whether they might have carried out higher applications, whereas group members could also be pissed off that higher programming and help methods weren’t in place. Although these emotions are legitimate and comprehensible, it’s essential that individuals don’t blame one another or themselves. Once somebody has died by suicide, the main focus must be on grieving and therapeutic, and assigning blame doesn’t assist with both. In the long-term, the group can start to take steps to implement new psychological well being programming in a constructive method.

7. DO course of feelings

Humans are emotional creatures. Our ideas, motion, and behaviors are intimately linked. Our lives are marked by disappointment, happiness, pleasure, anger, frustration, grief, and extra. Intense occasions just like the dying of a group member by suicide can set off intense feelings in all of us, however the feelings which are triggered will not be the identical for every individual. Some could really feel disappointment, whereas others could really feel anger. Some could really feel numb, and others could really feel a mixture of feelings. To heal in these conditions, it’s crucial to course of the feelings that we ourselves are feeling and make area for others to course of in a method that feels proper for them. Processing these feelings helps us make sense of the occasions round us and permits us to assist others heal too. There are many Qur’anic verses and Hadith that inform us how to deal with grief and how one can help those that are grieving.

8. DO attain out to one another and verify on one another

Every single individual can play a significant position in making a mentally wholesome surroundings by considerate gestures, irrespective of how giant or small. In the aftermath of a suicide, communities can manage to help loss survivors not solely by lending an open ear, but in addition by offering several types of help throughout the grieving course of. Organizing a meal practice, providing to babysit, and even shopping for flowers are very considerate gestures that may have a significant affect. Before doing any of this, nevertheless, it is very important ask what’s desired and wanted by those that are grieving, and permit for them to respectfully decline. Some could need to be left alone, and that’s okay, however one ought to nonetheless ask and supply help. It can be simply as necessary to usually re-assess any new or altering wants.

More broadly, checking-in persistently, each within the quick time period and long run, with anybody significantly impacted by the suicide or anybody combating psychological well being in the neighborhood is essential to suicide prevention. Friends and household are sometimes the primary to acknowledge if one thing is unsuitable, and might play an integral position with linking one to skilled assist. When persons are prepared to pay attention to one another and to help one another, your entire group turns into stronger and tight-knit.

9. DO establish methods for group members to hunt spiritual {and professional} help

DO establish methods for group members to hunt spiritual {and professional} help Click To Tweet

Following any dying, together with a dying by suicide, group members might want to grieve and heal. It is necessary to appreciate that several types of experiences can require completely different types of assist. People ought to first establish whom they resonate most with– a spiritual chief, an area counselor, a Muslim psychological well being skilled, or a non-Muslim psychological well being skilled. They can then discover a listing of suppliers for the kind of assist they’re looking for and take initiative to succeed in out. To assist another person who’s struggling, individuals must also attempt to establish the most effective type of skilled assist and refer their buddy there. Religious leaders are normally finest geared up to deal with crises of religion and supply non secular, non-professional counseling. Whereas psychological well being professionals like psychiatrists, psychologists, skilled counselors, therapists, and social employees are higher geared up to assist individuals with their experiences of psychological sickness. Religious {and professional} psychological well being help are each necessary and crucial. The key’s to hunt the correct sort of look after the suitable issues and to escalate care to a psychological well being skilled or emergency providers (i.e. 911) when unsure.

10. DO keep in mind that suicide is preventable, psychological sickness is treatable, and these difficult occasions are surmountable

It is crucial to grasp and to remember that suicide is preventable and that psychological sickness is treatable. When we affirm these values and actually take them to coronary heart, it may well assist empower us to take steps to stop suicides from occurring within the first place. Prevention methods discuss with steps that communities can take to stop suicidal crises from occurring within the first place. These methods embody community-level actions, in addition to individual-level actions. Just as we try to develop wholesome Islamic environments for our kids and our family members, we should additionally try to create environments that promote and help psychological well being.

Some steps that Muslim group leaders can take within the long-term embody: establishing relationships with native psychological well being professionals, creating and internet hosting frequent psychological well being training and consciousness occasions in group areas like faculties and mosques, and even creating and sustaining help methods equivalent to an area Muslim psychological well being group advisory board (CAB) and disaster response group (CRT) which are devoted to selling psychological well being and wellbeing in the neighborhood.

Conclusion

Any dying in a group has the potential to deeply have an effect on not solely the deceased’s household and shut buddies, but in addition the broader group. When somebody dies by suicide, the affect on the group and its particular person members will be considerably tougher. While we should always try to create Muslim communities that help and promote psychological well being in addition to strategy psychological sickness in a non-stigmatizing method, the fact is that suicides can occur regardless of our greatest efforts and intentions. In these circumstances, it’s important that the group responds in an applicable and immediate method. Muslim spiritual leaders (Imams please see our Suicide Postvention Khutbah Guide), psychological well being professionals, group leaders and advocates, and common group members all have roles that they will and should play in responding to a disaster. Taking the steps outlined right here is not going to solely assist forestall suicide contagion within the quick time period, however it should additionally assist the group grieve and heal in the long run.

Suicide is preventable. Mental sickness is treatable. And these difficult occasions are surmountable.Click To Tweet

If you have an interest in furthering your information on suicide response within the Muslim group, the Stanford Muslim Mental Health & Islamic Psychology Lab has developed a sturdy, evidence-based and Islamically-grounded suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention handbook and coaching. It offers in-depth, step-by-step steerage for Muslim group and non secular leaders that was developed in collaboration with Muslim leaders and suicide specialists. The Stanford MMH&IP Lab in collaboration with Maristan.org are additionally creating an upcoming coaching and certification program for Muslim the world over to learn to successfully forestall, intervene, and reply to suicides in their very own communities. To be taught extra or entry these supplies and trainings, please observe us on social media @stanfordmmhip and be part of the mailing listing at Maristan.org

If you or somebody is having ideas of self-harm, please name 911 or one of many following hotlines:

Suicide Postvention Khutbah Guide

Bios:

Rania Awaad M.D., is a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry on the Stanford University School of Medicine the place she is the Director of the Stanford Muslim Mental Health & Islamic Psychology Lab, Associate Chief of the Division of Public Mental Health and Population Sciences, and Co-Chief of the Diversity and Cultural Mental Health Section within the division of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. She can be the Executive Director of Maristan.org. Her analysis and medical work are centered on the psychological well being of Muslims. Her programs at Stanford vary from instructing a pioneering course on Islamic Psychology, instructing medical college students and residents on implicit bias and integrating tradition and faith into medical care to instructing undergraduate and graduate college students the psychology of xenophobia. Some of her most up-to-date educational publications embody an edited quantity on “Islamophobia and Psychiatry” (Springer, 2019), “Applying Islamic Principles to Clinical Mental Health” (Routledge, 2020) and an upcoming medical textbook on Muslim Mental Health for the American Psychiatric Association. She is at present an teacher on the Cambridge Muslim College, TISA and a Senior Fellow at Yaqeen Institute and ISPU. In addition, she serves because the Director of The Rahmah Foundation, a non-profit group devoted to educating Muslim ladies and ladies. She has beforehand served because the founding Clinical Director of the Khalil Center-San Francisco in addition to a Professor of Islamic Law at Zaytuna College. Prior to learning drugs, she pursued classical Islamic research in Damascus, Syria and holds certifications (ijāzah) in Qur’an, Islamic Law and different branches of the Islamic Sciences. Follow her @Dr.RaniaAwaad

Taimur Kouser is a researcher on the Stanford Muslim Mental Health & Islamic Psychology Lab and is likely one of the authors on the lab’s suicide group response handbook. He acquired his bachelor’s diploma in Neuroscience and Philosophy from Harvard University. Currently, he’s a grasp’s candidate at Duke University of their Bioethics & Science Policy program and is the recipient of a Fulbright analysis grant to check on the Center for Neurophilosophy at Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, Germany.

Osama El-Gabalawy, MS, leads the suicide line of analysis on the Stanford Muslim Mental Health & Islamic Psychology Lab, and is likely one of the authors on the lab’s suicide group response handbook. He acquired his bachelors in Biology, masters in Computer Science, and will probably be graduating with a doctorate in drugs all from Stanford University. He is an incoming Psychiatry resident at Columbia University.

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