Faith may protect against suicide

Posted on October 7, 2014

Religious Jewish teens are far less likely to attempt suicide than their secular Jewish peers, according to a new study published in the journal European Psychiatry.

Participants in the study were asked to label themselves as either “secular,’ “observant,” or “ultra-Orthodox,” the three main categories of Judaism in Israel. Of the 620 teens studied, the most religious teens were 45 percent less likely to attempt suicide or exhibit suicidal behavior compared to the less religious teens.

The Israeli study supports findings of previous research, which focused on Christian adults and found that religion may protect against suicide, particularly among women. Furthermore, participants who demonstrate an extrinsic spirituality, such as regular church attendance, are less likely to consider suicide than those who practice a more ‘private’ spirituality.

Using statistical tools, the researchers demonstrated that the protective effect of the practice of Judaism was not associated with a decreased risk of depression. Instead, it enhanced effective coping mechanisms.

This stands in direct contrast to studies of religious Christian teenagers who reported feeling less depressed than their secular peers. According to this study, religious Jewish teens appear less likely than secular ones to be at risk of suicide even though they are still likely to be depressed.

The researchers say the findings could be explained by Judaism’s spiritual and communal support, as well as its rules against suicide.

In their experience of working with suicide survivors, the researchers know that even when they were 99 percent sure they were going to kill themselves, they still sought hope.

The researchers believe that Jewish faith and community may be their most important source of hope.

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Source material from Psych Central

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