A Depressed Friend Considers Suicide: How to Help?

11 October, 2020
Q Assalamualeykum.

My friend was sexually harassed by her uncle as a child, she never told anyone about this. I'm the first one to know this. Her family is negligent and sometimes emotionally abusive.

My friend is depressed, she hates herself, she has no self-esteem or confidence. She hates humans and life.

I know she needs therapy but her parents won't acknowledge her depression. She sometimes cuts herself. I'm her only trusted friend. I do my best to comfort her and to help her but since I live away I can't be by her side physically.

I send her Islamic lectures and reminders so she gets closer to Allah. I told her about surat Duha too. I know she should go to therapy but I don't know how to do this without her parents' knowledge.

I read a lot about depression too. I feel tired it's really sad to have a loved one who wants to die. I don't want her to give up on herself, but what's the point of telling her to be patient when she even says I didn't ask to be born.

I can't play her therapist although I'm very interested in psychology. Please advice me. Please give resources to help her. Jazakallah.

Answer


In this counseling session:

  • Children who were abused/harassed sexually and/or grew up in abusive homes can suffer from PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
  • The self-injury begins as a defense against what’s going on in their family, in their lives. They have failed in one area of their lives, so this is a way to get control.
  • Suicidal ideation could be a critical factor when combined with hopelessness and isolation.
  • Ask her to write a contract stating she will not harm herself and she will not attempt suicide.
  • I also kindly suggest that you encourage her to go for counseling even though her parents do not support it.
  • Sister, please keep the lines of communication open with her so she knows that someone loves her and is always “there” checking up on her. Try to find something that means a lot to her.
  • Please keep praying to Allah (swt) concerning her.

As-Salamu ‘Alaikum sister,

I am so sorry to hear about your friend. How tragic that she was abused as a child and has a family that is negligent and abusive as well.

Child abuse

Children who were abused/sexually harassed can suffer from an array of mental health issues as you are seeing with your friend. Children who were abused/harassed sexually and/or grew up in abusive homes can suffer from PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

Seeking control

The cutting your friend has been doing is a way to gain control over her emotional pain as well as secure control or power over something in her life. This phenomenon of cutting has becoming more and more prevalent in today’s society.  

WebMD states that “Very often, kids who self-harm have an eating disorder. “They may have a history of sexual, physical, or verbal abuse”. Lader adds, “Many are sensitive, perfectionists, overachievers. The self-injury begins as a defense against what’s going on in their family, in their lives. They have failed in one area of their lives, so this is a way to get control.”

Cutting in and of itself does not mean she wants to commit suicide; however, her depression is of grave concern based on your statements. Suicidal ideation could be a critical factor when combined with hopelessness and isolation.


Check out this counseling video:


Contract

Sister, I am not sure how old she is and I am not familiar with the laws in her country.  However, I would highly suggest that when you talk to her ask her if she loves you. She will most likely say yes. Then ask her to write a contract stating she will not harm herself and she will not attempt suicide. Have her sign it and give you a copy.

There is some power, if only a reminder, in writing a contact. Number one, she will remember she loves you and she gave her word. Number two it may help instill a sense of responsibility. However, there is no guarantee. Please review Suicide.Org for further information on how these contracts work.

Counseling

I also kindly suggest that you encourage her to go for counseling even though her parents do not support it. Tell her that if you both are friends and love each other as sisters, she should at least try therapy for you if not for herself. 

A Depressed Friend Considers Suicide: How to Help? - About Islam

Please do have names and numbers ready to give her of therapists or clinics in her area that she can call or go to for an appointment. At this point, as her parents are not supportive and she is at a critical point their consent is not a concern here.

Third party

You may also wish to try to get some names and numbers of relatives, or family, or friends who may be sympathetic, as her parents are not, and call them to alert them of the situation. If that is not possible, please contact the mosque she goes to, explain the situation, and ask for an intervention or a follow-up.

Ask if there are any sister there who are counselors, nurses, social workers or other related fields. Reach out to these sisters and ask them for further help in local resources and see if one of them can engage her or do a home visit to take her out for lunch or tea.

Show love and care

Sister, please keep the lines of communication open with her so she knows that someone loves her and is always “there” checking up on her. Try to find something that means a lot to her.

While it may take a few attempts to find out, there has to be something in her life that she cherishes. It may be a younger sibling, a favorite auntie, a forgotten dream such as wanting to travel to a certain country or a career choice. Find it and work it.

If you can find that thread that keeps one hanging on to life until help has arrived, then you have more to work with. For instance, if she has a younger sibling whom she adores, you may want to remind her that she needs to get better because “so and so” would be so devastated if she didn’t.

If it is a dream of attending a certain school or traveling to a specific country, send her literature on that and discuss how exciting it will be and ask if you can help her plan her steps for achieving her goal.

If she cannot identify anything, please utilize your friendship in any way possible. Ask her if she would like to do (fill in what you both like) on your vacation or spring break. This will give hope and something to look forward to.

Conclusion

Lastly, please keep praying to Allah (swt) concerning her. Pray and do dhzkir with her on the phone if you can. Even though you are sending her Islamic literature and reminders, she may be too depressed to respond without a one-on-one prompt and participation, so please sister do offer to pray with her.

May Allah (swt) grant mercy and bless you both. She is in our prayers. Please let us know how she is.

Salam,

***

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About Aisha Mohammad
Aisha received her PhD in psychology in 2000 and an MS in public health in 2009. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. Aisha specializes in trauma, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach. Aisha works at a Family Resource Center, and has a part-time practice in which she integrates healing and spirituality using a holistic approach. Aisha plans to open a holistic care counseling center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocate for social & food justice. In her spare time she enjoys her family, martial arts classes, Islamic studies as well as working on her book and spoken word projects.