Sitting in a secret corner of my college with a sharp object on my wrist and a single desire: to be buried under the campus's Magnolia tree...
Now, do you really think the fear of committing a great sin alone could've stopped me?
According to the WHO* suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among 15–29 year olds worldwide and the 10th cause of death in the U.S.
I was 21 at my second attempt & let's just say the main reason I'm here writing this today is not my fear of sin (or the love of God /Allah for that matter), but a desperate last minute call to my counselor who called the cops on me!
But that's not to say religion doesn't play a major role in preventing suicide.
Looking back at the days leading to my attempt I can clearly remember 3 key Islamic beliefs & practices I missed at the time that could have offered me major solace:
- Ever grappled with disbelief? In the months leading to my suicide attempt I had lost all belief in God. Believing solely in my own power instead of relying on God's meant taking on more responsibility for my life in general. It also meant even after doing all I could to make a change, I would not have God to trust with the rest of the matter and the resulted pressure pushed me to the edge. From changing the brain, to assigning meaning to grief, to providing a support system, studies have shown the various ways faith can help with depression which I had deprived myself of by leaving my religion.
- As a result of losing my belief I had also stopped praying my daily prayers at the time. Aside from being an expression of faith, the 5 obligatory daily prayers provide Muslims with a routine. They help divide our day into parts so we won't just run around all day and then wonder "where the day went." So when my college counselor asked me if I had a daily routine to help deal with my mental issues, I quickly remembered to what extent the prayers had helped give a structure to my life.
- Remember reading this saying of Prophet Muhammad on how upholding the ties of kinship can extend one's life? You may have thought: No Way! Not my family!
Well guess what? Research shows strong family ties are important for our emotional well-being, especially in young adulthood. Weeks before my attempt at suicide I had cut ties with nearly all my family members because frankly I had been struggling with my self-image and had difficulty accepting myself let alone allowing for my family to care for me. Had I only reached out to them and allowed myself to be loved...
I'm not saying the same goes for everyone who's struggling with suicidal thoughts, but when it comes to my personal experience, belief and religiosity could have certainly helped when I needed them most.
When the caring Christian cop told me I had no right "to take away God's gift of life" as I sat crying on the hard backseat in handcuffs, I thought him naive and insensitive, but going back to certain religious teachings we share, I now think I owe the guy at least an understanding nod!
*1 World Health Organization