IsReligion a Protective Factor for Suicide?
Suicideis one of the notable issues the society is grappling with and,therefore, it presents itself as an issue worth the concern of thesocial psychologists. Indeed, the statistics on suicide are welldocumented and mainly show the problem is so pronounced that it isworth the attention. In this regard, it is worth arguing thatinterventions are not only needed to save lives, but also theassociated expenditure.
Forsocial psychologists, the question of what is the most appropriatemethod of addressing this challenge lends itself as a problematicone. The magnitude of this problem is manifested in the notion that,despite the measures the practice embraced, the cases of suicide havecontinued to soar (Stein & Wilkinson, 2012).
Besides,the practice also happens to be at crossroads because it must nowconsider and experiment to see whether it can adopt differentmethodologies that are argued to be effective. The role of religionin preventing suicide has featured conspicuously among the advocatedoptions. It is intriguing whether religion could serve as aneffective protector for suicide.
IsReligion a Protective Factor for Suicide?
Accordingto American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (2016), for instance,suicide is ranked tenth on the list of the leading causes of deathwithin the US. In every year, about 42,873 Americans are dying ofsuicide. The ration of suicide deaths to attempted suicide is 1 to25, implying that there as many suicide attempts as 1, 071,825 peryear. The cost of dealing with suicide is $ 44 billion per year.Nevertheless, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (2016) iskeen to note that although these statistics are entirely accurate,the numbers are estimated be underreported because the associatedwith suicide stigma. This term paper explores the views for andagainst religion as a protective factor for suicide. In doing so, thepaper purposes to examine the theoretical views and findings fromresearch studies to make an inference to the conclusion.
Theviews supporting religion are not only hinged on theoreticalunderpinnings but also results of research. The dominant theoreticalassertion is that religion can influence the psychology of anindividual in many ways. First is that religious teaching serves as aguide to leading an acceptable life. Many religious teachings, forexample, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, consider lifeas sacred, and their teaching forbids suicide. Secondly, religiousteachings are inspiring. This assertion is also plausible becausemany religious teachings serve as a source of comfort, for instance,urging followers to look to deities to be liberated in times oftribulations. Thirdly, religion can be inspiring because theirteachings contain encouraging stories of people who underwent commontrials but were liberated (Gururaj et al., 2012).
Severalresearch studies have inquired about the subject and reportedpositive findings. Anita, Oquendo, Grunebaum, Ellis, Burke and Mann(2014), for instance, acknowledge that studies investigating therelationship between religion and suicide based on Durkheim’ssocial integration hypothesis, as well as the regulative benefits ofreligion theory are limited. Therefore, the study Kanita, Oquendo,Grunebaum, Ellis, Burke and Mann (2014) proceeded to examinereligion-suicide relationship by comparing subjects that hadreligious affiliations and those that did not have a religiousaffiliation, focusing on their clinical and demographic attributes.
Thestudy established that subjects who did not have religiousaffiliations exhibited a higher rate of suicide attempts than thetopics with religious affiliations. Furthermore, subjects who did nothave religious affiliations reported a relatively large number ofrelatives who had committed suicide. Many of the subjects that didnot have religious affiliations were young, single, did not havechildren, were isolated from other family members, and were notsubject to suicide moral objectivity. As far as clinicalcharacteristics are concerned, this group was also characterized byaggression, drug use disorders, hopelessness, depression, and stress.Thus, the study by Kanita, Oquendo, Grunebaum, Ellis, Burke and Mann(2014) concluded that religious affiliations have a significantimpact on limiting suicidal behaviors, especially among depressedindividuals. When other factors are considered constant, enhancedmoral objectivity and low aggression among subjects affiliated withreligion can play a significant role in protecting against attemptsof suicide.
Inanother study, Rushing, Corsentino, Hames, Sachs-Ericsson andSteffens (2014) acknowledge elderly people with depressions are themost vulnerable to suicide. The study further notes that whereasreligious involvements have been shown to result in desirable healthoutcomes and minimized suicide incidences, knowledge on the role ofreligious affiliations on suicide ideations among the elderlypersons, as well as on beneficial constructs is limited.
Thus,the authors examine the significance of religious affiliations andconceptualizations on suicide attempts, considering other potentiallyinfluential elements such as social support. The study examinedelderly subjects, assessing the mentioned variables based onself-report. The study established that attendance at church, privatereligious practices, and social support protected an individualagainst suicide ideation. The study concluded that attendance ofchurch played the most influential role in preventing suicidalideation, much more than involvement in religious activities.Besides, Kanita, Carballo, Baca-Garcia, Hanga, Mann, Brent andOquendo (2014) conducted a study with the objective of examining therole of religious objections in protecting against suicide amongpatients with bipolar disorders. They carried out a study on 149subjects diagnosed with bipolar disorder based on the DSM-III-Rcriteria.
Itcompared the subjects that reported to have religious affiliationswith those who did not report any religious affiliations, furtheraccording to considerations to the clinical and demographiccharacteristics. The study established that bipolar subjects withreligious affiliations were likely to be having children andassociated closely with other family members. The study alsoconfirmed that patients with religious affiliations were less liableto commit suicide, and had significantly few suicide attempts intheir history.
Thus,the study by Kanita Kanita, Carballo, Baca-Garcia, Hanga, Mann, Brentand Oquendo (2014) concluded that religious affiliations have asignificant impact on limiting suicidal behaviors, especially amongdepressed individuals. When other factors are kept constant, enhancedmoral objectivity and low aggression among subjects affiliated withreligion can play a significant role in protecting against attemptsof suicide. Nevertheless, the study suggested the needs to conductstudies on the roles of religion, moral objections and aggressive inreducing the probability of suicide thoughts among patients withbipolar disorders, which can serve as potentials therapeuticstrategies for preventing the high risks of suicide.
Thecontrasting views are also existent, and like supporting views, theyare also mainly premised upon theories and research findings. Theviews by Gururaj et al., (2012) are perhaps the most comprehensivetheoretical cover on how and why religion might be limited to sufficeas a protective factor for suicide. In particular, religions canoffer many promises, which when unfulfilled, could agitate suicide.Typically, the primary motivation for people becoming religious isthe hope for liberation from different problems affecting them.Therefore, when overwhelming challenges arise, victims tend to askwhy they had to happen despite the religious promises. The victimsmay become frustrated and commit suicide because of thishopelessness.
Althoughfew studies have succeeded in finding a causal relationship betweenreligions and escalation of suicides, some studies have presentedfindings that religion might be limited to prevent suicide. A studyby Ryan, Maria, Oquendo and Stanley (2015), for instance, acknowledgethat although religion has been widely cited as a factor thatprotects people against the commitment of suicide, this has not beenadequately supported by empirical evidence.
Variousreligious dimensions such as doctrine, affiliation, and participationcomplicate the underlying research. Suicide dimensions such ascompletion, ideation, and attempt have also complicated the research.Ryan, Maria, Oquendo and Stanley (2015) conducted a systematic studyfocusing on identifying dimensions of religion that were likely toencourage suicide. The study established that religious affiliationsdo not necessarily play a significant role in protecting people fromideation of suicide, but plays a crucial role in limiting theattempts of suicide. The answer to the question of whether religiousaffiliations prevent attempts of suicide are subject to culturalimplications of having associations with certain religions,considering minority religious entities have an apprehension of beingsocially isolated. The study also established that attendance atreligious services does not play a significant role constrainingsuicidal ideation and completion.
Anotherstudy by Caribe, Nunez, Montal, Ribeiro, Sarmento, Quarantini andMiranda (2012) examined the impact of religious affiliation onsuicidal behaviors, focusing on the Brazilian context. The studycompared the characteristics of a group of participants with ahistory of attempted suicide and drug abuse with the panel ofparticipants who did not have the history of suicide attempts. Theaspect of religiosity was measured in three constructs — thenon-organizational religious activities, organizational religiousactivities, and intrinsic religiosity.
Thestudy utilized multivariate logistic regression in evaluating therole of religion in the attempts to commit suicide, controlling theeffects of confounding factors such as mental complications,socio-demographic constructs, and impulsivity. The study failed tofind evidence that religiosity protects individuals againstattempting suicide, and this was still the findings even aftercontrolling the effect of the confounding risk factors.
Inconclusion, this paper was purposed to explore the views for andagainst religion as a useful protective factor for suicide. In doingso, the paper has examined the theoretical views and findings fromresearchers. The choice of the topic has been motivated by the factthat suicide is a notable issue the society is grappling with and,therefore, it presents itself as an issue worth the concern of thesocial psychologists. Concisely, the exploration of literature on therole of religion as a protective factor for suicide shows it isdocumented, but views are widely divided. Many religious teachings,for example, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, considerlife as sacred, and their teaching forbids suicide.
Onone hand, supporting views assert that religious teaching can affectthe psychology of an individual in many ways, including serving as aguide to leading an acceptable life, as a source of comfort, and asource of inspiration. On the other hand, the contradicting viewsassert that religion does not prevent suicide, and if only, it couldescalate hopelessness and frustration leading to suicide. Even thestudies conducted to follow-up the validity of the theories haveended up with divided findings.
Tothis extent, it can be inferred that studies on the role of religionas a protective factor for suicide are inconclusive and thatadvocates cannot yet fully assert it as a remedy for suicide.Enhanced moral objectivity and low aggression among subjectsaffiliated with religion can play a significant role in protectingagainst attempts of suicide. Many religious teachings, for example,Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, consider life as sacred,and their teaching forbids suicide. Secondly, religious teachings areinspiring.
Variousreligious dimensions such as doctrine, affiliation, and participationcomplicate the underlying research. Astudy by Kanita Kanita, Carballo, Baca-Garcia, Hanga, Mann, Brent andOquendo (2014) concluded that religious affiliations have asignificant impact on limiting suicidal behaviors, especially amongdepressed individuals. The significance of religious affiliations andconceptualizations on suicide attempts, considering other potentiallyinfluential elements such as social support.
Nevertheless,discussion creates the allowance to question several items that, ifanswered, would go a long way in shedding light on as to whetherreligion can have a place in protecting suicide. In particular, couldit be that some religions are more influential than others in theirability to protect suicide? Secondly, does the ability of thereligion to protect individual from suicide depends on his/herbackground disposition? Indeed, finding answers to this questionmight also reconcile the differences, and even inform practice.
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