Amina Shaikh writes on why it is important to ensure that suicide is dealt with as a social issue, and prevented substantively.
On a seemingly ordinary day, the task of a blood sugar test was a part of my daily regimen. Yet, the simplicity of pricking my finger brought me face to face with an unexpected struggle.
The evening unfolded with a sense of urgency as a young man in his twenties was rushed into the ICU. His struggle for life was evident from the fresh marks on his neck – a desperate attempt to end his existence. In a poignant irony, earlier that day, I had hesitated over a minor medical procedure(pricking my finger with a lancet for BSL). At the same time, this young soul grappled with a life-altering decision. The dichotomy between my momentary hesitation and his life-altering choice compelled me to delve deeper into the intricate realm of mental health.
The stark contrast between my vulnerability and his despair ignited a quest to understand suicide prevention.
The urgency of suicide prevention resonates profoundly in India, where mental health challenges and societal pressures intersect. In the year 2023 alone, there were approximately 132,000 reported suicide cases across the country. These numbers highlight the dire need for awareness, compassion, and intervention.
The need for suicide prevention is an urgent call that transcends the boundaries of culture, religion, and background. In a world of complexities and challenges, individuals may find themselves trapped in despair, contemplating a path that leads to self-destruction. The pain that leads someone to consider suicide is unfathomable, and our collective responsibility is to extend a helping hand. Suicide prevention is not merely a responsibility; it is an ethical and moral imperative rooted in our shared humanity. Every life is precious, and every effort to prevent suicide is a step towards preserving the sanctity of life, reflecting the values upheld by our faith and fostering a world characterised by empathy, understanding, and compassion.
It’s a call for action that transcends demographics, urging us to come together to create a society that values mental well-being and offers a support system for those grappling with despair.
Let’s see how we can contribute towards suicide prevention.
1. The imperative of empathy & compassion
The essence of suicide prevention lies in the power of empathy and compassion. These qualities are crucial in understanding the depths of despair that lead someone to contemplate suicide. Compassion is a beacon of hope, a lifeline that can make a world of difference to those grappling with their inner demons. A compassionate gesture, a listening ear, and a non-judgmental presence can distinguish between someone choosing to reach out for help or succumbing to the shadows of despair.
Islamic teachings uphold compassion as a cornerstone of the faith. The Quran likens believers to a single body – when one part aches, the whole body responds. This metaphor exemplifies the importance of extending empathy and support to distressed people. In suicide prevention, compassion plays a pivotal role. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) once said, “Whosoever removes a worldly grief from a believer, Allah will remove from him one of the griefs of the Day of Judgment.” This teaching underscores the significance of reaching out, listening without judgment, and providing solace to those struggling.
2. Creating a Safe Space for Dialogue
Breaking the chains of silence surrounding mental health is an essential step in suicide prevention. Open dialogue is a bridge to understanding and healing. Creating an environment where they can share their mental struggles without fear of judgment is crucial. Initiating conversations about mental health, offering support, and being receptive to listening can empower individuals to seek help before their pain reaches a breaking point.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) advised us to seek guidance from knowledgeable sources during challenges. This principle holds relevance in addressing mental health issues. Silence often intensifies emotional struggles, making open conversations essential. By fostering dialogue about mental health, we negate the stigma and isolation that often accompany it, thus facilitating healing and understanding.
3. Understanding the Significance of Hope
Hope is a lifeline that keeps us tethered to life even in the darkest moments. In the context of suicide prevention, instilling hope can be as simple as letting someone know they are not alone. It’s about fostering an environment where individuals feel seen, valued, and understood. Rekindling hope doesn’t mean providing solutions; it means offering unwavering support and reinforcing that there is a way forward, even when the path seems obscured.
The Qur’an asserts that Allah’s mercy envelops all things (Qur’an 7:156), even the depths of despair. Islam teaches that one should never lose hope in Allah’s mercy. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) reassures us with the words, “Do not die except while you are Muslims (i.e., submitting to Allah) while you are submitting to Allah.” This sentiment reinforces seeking help, guidance, and support as an expression of faith.
4. Endurance through Patience
Patience is a recurring theme, particularly when confronting life’s trials. The Qur’an urges believers to seek help through patience and prayer (Qur’an 2:45). Patience is not silent suffering; instead, it’s a conscious choice to persevere while seeking strength in faith and community. It protects against despair, guiding individuals away from self-destructive paths and towards enduring with hope.
5. Sanctity of Life
The Qur’an regards life as a divine trust (Qur’an 17:33), instilling value in every soul. This perspective urges us to delve into the emotional complexities that may lead someone to consider suicide. Life is a precious gift, compelling us to cultivate heightened empathy and understanding. Preventing suicide necessitates acknowledging the pain of the individual while embracing teachings that advocate creating an environment of support.
The confluence of my vulnerability and the young man’s attempt to end his life lays bare the intricate tapestry of human emotions and the fragility of existence. Suicide prevention is not a distant concept; it’s a call to action that requires us to embrace empathy, compassion, and open dialogue. Each of us holds power to make a difference and be a source of support for those grappling with despair. Our actions can be the beacon of light that guides someone from the brink of darkness to the shores of hope. Islam, a faith that treasures life’s sanctity, provides a roadmap for understanding and preventing suicide. We can create an environment where individuals burdened by despair can find solace and support through compassion, empathy, patience, and open dialogue. As we navigate life’s labyrinth, remember that every life is sacred deserving of our care & compassion. With every step we take to prevent suicide, we honour our faith’s teachings & contribute to the preservation of life’s sanctity.