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Op-Ed

Addressing Taboo of Suicide Crisis among US Muslims

Allah tells us that “If anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole humanity.” Quran 5:32

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death amongst youth aged 10-34.

In general, suicide is viewed by Muslims as taking away the gift of life given by God. The Qur’an says exhorts that man should trust God, have faith in His mercy, have patience, and not to destroy life.

A recent study which found US Muslims are twice likely to attempt suicide than those of other faiths has raised alarm among Muslims.

In this USA Today article, Rania Awaad and Taimur Kouser address the suicide crisis Muslims face in today’s America, urging an end to the taboo of talking about it.

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Mental illness is still highly stigmatized around the world, but its stigma in Muslim communities is especially strong. Instead of seeing mental health challenges as medical problems requiring (in part) medical solutions, many Muslims view such challenges as purely spiritual ones that can be prayed away or addressed with similar spiritual solutions.

Suicide, in particular, is a taboo within a taboo not only because of its connection to a mental health vocabulary, but also because it is morally forbidden in Islam.

A combination of Qur’anic verses and Hadith (narrations of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) underscore God’s explicit prohibition of killing oneself, emphasizing the special status that He has given to each human life and reminding Muslims about the nature of trials in this life and the need and goodness of patiently enduring them.

But moral prohibitions alone do not afford Muslims blanket immunity from suffering suicidal thoughts or dying by suicide.

Research shows that a significant number of Muslims attempt and die by suicide each year, despite the fact that reported rates of Muslim deaths by suicide are low.

There also may be a good reason to believe that the rates are actually much higher than reported. In addition to its social stigma, suicide is criminalized in many Muslim-majority countries, which may yield underreporting or misclassification of deaths by suicide as “accidental deaths.”

Click here to read the whole article.