Spirituality is Associated with Lower Suicidality in Adolescents


Spirituality is Associated with Lower Suicidality in Adolescents


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“suicide is never the right answer. The more we can nurture a sense of connectedness and purpose in our lives (of “spirituality”), the less likely people will be tempted to “end it all.” – Eben Alexander


After cancer and heart disease, suicide accounts for more years of life lost than any other cause. Around 43,000 people take their own lives each year in the US. Someone dies from suicide every 12.3 minutes. It is estimated that worldwide about a million people die by suicide every year. It is much more prevalent with males who account for 79% of suicides. The problem is far worse than these statistics suggest as it has been estimated that for every completed suicide there were 12 unsuccessful attempts. In other words, about a half a million people in the U.S. attempt suicide each year. Yet compared with other life-threatening conditions there has been scant research on how to identify potential suicide attempters, intervene, and reduce suicidality.


Depression and other mood disorders are the number-one risk factor for suicide. More than 90% of people who kill themselves have a mental disorder, whether depression, bipolar disorder or some other diagnosis. So, the best way to prevent suicide may be to treat the underlying cause. For many this means treating depression. Spirituality may help to provide meaning and prevent suicide. But there is scant research on the relationship of spirituality and religiosity and suicide.


In today’s Research News article “The role of social support and spiritual wellbeing in predicting suicidal ideation among marginalized adolescents in Malaysia.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6565529/), Ibrahim and colleagues recruited adolescents from low income families and measured them for suicide ideation, social support, and spiritual well-being.


They found that the higher the levels of social support, and spiritual well-being the lower the levels of suicide ideation. It should be recognized that this study was correlational and as such no conclusions regarding causation can be reached. The results suggest clear negative relationships between spirituality and social support and suicide ideation in adolescents from low income families. Being spiritual and having social support are related to having few, if any, thoughts regarding suicide. It remains for future research to establish whether improving spirituality and/or social support would result in fewer thoughts about suicide.


So, spirituality is associated with lower suicidality in adolescents.


“I personally think spirituality is a part of each of our beings. It has been the difference in my life and has walked me back from the place where I thought suicide was my only option. Maybe spirituality can be the difference in someone else’s life, too.” – Kelli Evans


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Ibrahim, N., Che Din, N., Ahmad, M., Amit, N., Ghazali, S. E., Wahab, S., … A Halim, M. (2019). The role of social support and spiritual wellbeing in predicting suicidal ideation among marginalized adolescents in Malaysia. BMC public health, 19(Suppl 4), 553. doi:10.1186/s12889-019-6861-7




The high number of adolescents and young adults harbouring suicidal ideation, as reported by the Ministry of Health Malaysia, is alarming. This cross-sectional study aims to examine the association between social support and spiritual wellbeing in predicting suicidal ideation among Malaysian adolescents.


A total of 176 adolescents in selected urban areas in the states of Wilayah Persekutuan and Selangor were selected. The Suicide Ideation Scale (SIS) was used to measure the level of severity or tendency of suicidal ideation. The Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS) was used to measure the perceived social support received by the respondent while the Spiritual Wellbeing Scale (SWBS) was used to measure the religious wellbeing (RWB), the existential wellbeing (EWB) and the overall score of spiritual wellbeing (SWB).


The study found that both RWB and EWB showed significant negative correlation with suicidal ideation. Similarly, support from family and friends also showed a negative correlation with suicidal ideation. Further analysis using multiple regressions showed that RWB and SWB, and family support predict suicidal ideation in adolescents.


Spiritual wellbeing in combination with family support plays a major role in predicting suicidal ideation. Therefore, intervention for encompassing spirituality and family support may contribute to a more positive outcome in suicidal adolescents.



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