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Social and Religious Aspects of Suicide

Authored by Shubhangi Sahu

Keywords: Suicide, Suicidal Behavior, Suicide Theory, Social Factors, Family, Society, Religion


According to WHO, every year more than 8 lakh people commit suicide which makes it a major cause of death. There are many reasons to suicide such as mental, social, personal factors, two of the interesting factors of suicide are social and religious factors as these factors are responsible for suicidal behavior, but on the other hand it can be major factor in preventing suicides.


Suicide refers to the intentional act of causing one’s own death. The term suicide is derived from a Latin word ‘suicidium’ which means “the act of taking one’s own life. And the frequent thoughts or ideas to cause or attempt suicide refers to suicidal behavior or suicidal ideation. Suicidal behavior includes suicidal ideation (frequent thoughts of ending one's life), suicide attempts (the actual event of trying to kill one's self), and completed suicide (death occurs). Suicidal behavior is most often accompanied by intense feelings of hopelessness, depression, or self‐destructive behaviors (parasuicidal behaviors).[i]

Suicidal behavior is a result of a complex interaction between a wide array of psychosocial, economic, biological, and cultural risk factors across the lifespan of an individual.[ii] There are many factors which lead to suicidal attempts such as psychological, cultural, social factors and many more. Suicide is one of the major cause of deaths in all around the world. According to WHO report, every year more than 8,00,000 people take their own life and it has been the second-leading cause of death especially among the population of age group 15-29 years all across the world. [iii]

Types Of Suicide: Durkheim’s Suicide Theory

In a general sense, suicide can be classified into some broad categories based on their factors such as suicide caused due to social factors, psychological factors, personal reasons etc. However, Emile Durkheim’s book Le Suicide published in the year 1897 presented a sociological study of Suicide; he also developed theoretical typology of suicide where he explained different effects of social factors on suicide.

Anomic Suicide is a response which an individual feels a sense of disconnection or disassociation from the social cohesion.

Altruistic Suicide refers to extreme regulation of individuals by social forces, this regulation is to such an extent that an individual is ready to commit suicide if it a for social or a noble cause.

Egoistic Suicide is a response by the individuals due to their detachment from the society. Often, people are integrated by their work roles, family relations and social bonds which get weakened due to retirements, loss of friends and families which is likely cause of this type of suicide.

Fatalistic Suicide refers to suicide when extreme regulations by society takes a negative side i.e. when it starts denying the self- conscience of individuals and to free oneself from this regulations, suicide turns out to be a solution.[iv] [v]

Social Factors to Suicide

Social factors are responsible for suicide as well as help in preventing suicide. the good environment, social bonds, family support help a person become stronger and to deal effectively with the problems, also it has been found that people who more attached to their families are less prone to attempt suicide and live a happy and satisfactory life. Society or community also plays a major role. People living is positive surrounding, having good bonds with the people in their society are unlikely to commit suicide. Contrary to this, the family and society also has negative impact which can be the factor for suicide. The relevant family-related risk factors are parental psychopathology, family history of suicidal behavior, family discord, loss of a parent to death or divorce, poor quality of the parent-child relationship, and maltreatment.[vi] Also embarrassment, non-acceptance in society can be reason affecting suicide.

Religious Factors to Suicide

Religion plays a significant role in shaping an individual’s identity. Religion teaches a way of living, ideas opinions to an individual which can have major role to play in suicidal behavior. In the recent studies it has been found that people who have higher religious affiliation are less likely to commit suicide, religious values, teachings gives an individual a positive conscience which may make his strong to deal with the problems and less prone to suicide. However, there may be some religious impositions or extreme regulations which can cause an adverse effect on an individual making him prone to suicide. Suicide ideators who more frequently attend religious services differs from the bulk of literature over the last ten years showing that religious service attendance is protective against suicide ideation.[vii]

Other Essential Factors to Suicide

Other major factors to suicide are Misuse and abuse of alcohol or other drugs, Mental disorders, particularly depression and other mood disorders, Access to lethal means, Knowing someone who died by suicide, particularly a family member, Social isolation, Chronic disease and disability, lack of access to behavioral health care.[viii] Relationship problems – conflict with parents and/or romantic partners, Ongoing exposure to bullying behavior such as cyber bullying, History of mental health conditions – depression, anxiety, bipolar, PTSD.[ix] One of the other recent factors to suicide is found out to be among LGBTQ community as they face a lot of criticism, disrespect and non-acceptance by the society.


Suicide is a one of the major cause of deaths all around the world, one of the major problems of suicide is mental or psychological issues. social and religious factors play a very important role in suicidal behavior if an individual gets family support, social acceptance, it can really make his life better and happier, strong affiliation towards religion can also make an individual stronger and more vigilant with his decisions as religion provides a lot of positivity and power to individuals, however both these factors if turned negative can be a major factor contributing in suicide. Suicide is a serious problem which needs to be taken seriously thus, it is a moral duty of each and every individual to understand importance of social bonds and association and to socialized with everyone and maintain good family and social bonds, as it can really prevent some suicides and make people happier.

Foot Notes: [i] Kathryn Castle PhD, Richard Kreipe MD, in Pediatric Clinical Advisor (Second Edition), 2007

[ii] D. De Leo, K. Krysinska, in International Encyclopedia of Public Health, 2008.


[iv] Durkheim, Émile. "Suicide: A Study in Sociology." Trans. Spaulding, John A. New York: The Free Press, 1979 (1897)

[v] Jones, Robert Alun. "Émile Durkheim: An Introduction to Four Major Works." Beverly Hills CA: Sage Publications, 1986.

[vi] Bridge J.A., Goldstein T.R., Brent D.A. Adolescent suicide and suicidal behavior. J. Child. Psychol. Psychiatry. 2006;47:372–394. [vii] Rasic DT, Belik SL, Elias B, Katz LY, Enns M, Sareen J, Swampy Cree Suicide Prevention Team.J Affect Disord. 2009 Apr; 114(1-3):32-40 [viii] [ix]