The Relevance of Religion and Spirituality for Suicide Prevention

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 November 2023) | Viewed by 9235

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Department of Psychology, Azusa Pacific University, Azusa, CA 91702, USA
Interests: psychology of religion; moral decision making; religious camps; substance use disorders; behavioral addictions; quantitative data analysis within the general linear model
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The scientific study of suicide began with Emile Durkheim’s (1897, 2013) Le Suicide. One of the primary arguments of his sociological approach was the powerful role of religion in suicidality across cultures. Since his time, the understanding of both suicide and religion has advanced considerably. The notion that religious communities could have profound effects on the suicidal behaviors and experiences of individuals has been confirmed by numerous studies over the past 125 years (Gearing & Alonzo, 2018; Wu et al., 2015). At the same time, religion and spirituality are complex existential and sociocultural experiences that can have bidirectional relationships with cognitive, emotional, and even biological processes. Most research linking religion and suicide has not understood the complexities of religious and spiritual experiences. Research on the role of religion and spirituality in suicide prevention could be advanced by efforts to more fully understanding these processes and their relationships with suicidality.

Yet, many of the studies that validated the protective role of religion and spirituality relied on a risk factor approach to suicide prediction that has not led to scientific advancement (Franklin et al., 2018). Self-report measures of suicidal ideation have similarly performed poorly at predicting suicide risk (Runeson et al. 2017). More recently, leading researchers have argued for alterntive approaches that may lead to improved prediction of short-term risk, including ideation-to-action frameworks (Klonsky & May, 2014; Klonsky, Saffer, & Bryan, 2018), narrative models of suicidal crises (Galynker, 2017), and tying risk factors to the particular circumstances and characteristics that elicit suicidal behavior (Hjelmeland, 2017). These leading researchers have argued that the science of suicidality could better inform suicide prevention if utilizing these models in research.

Aims of the Special Issue:

This special issue aims to advance the scientific and theoretical understanding of the role of religion and spirituality in suicide prevention by incorporating these emerging models, resulting in a more dynamic understanding of the mechanisms by which religion and spirituality can affect suicide risk. Moreover, this special issue aims to advance research on the inclusion of religion and spirituality into suicide interventions, preventative models, and postvention approaches.

Potential Topics:

  • Responses of religious or spiritual communities to people affected by suicide, including people with suicidal thoughts or behavior and survivors of suicide loss.
  • The role of religious and spiritual views of human sexuality and gender identity on suicidality.
  • Novel interventions or support groups that incorporate religious or spiritual teachings, perspectives, or practices to reduce risk of suicide and/or increase help-seeking of suicidal individuals.
  • Risk and protective factors of varying religious traditions or spiritual experiences for suicidality.
  • Scientific studies on psychedelics and entheogens that investigate religious or spiritual experiences as mediators or moderators of suicide risk.
  • Epidemiological studies on prevalence of suicidal ideation, attempts, and deaths by religious or spiritual tradition, expecially if incorporating contemporary constructs of religiousness, spirituality, or suicidality.

Article Types:

In this Special Issue, original research articles and reviews are welcome. Suicide research needs methodologically diverse approaches to advance (Hjelmeland, 2017). For this reason, empirical research that incorporates experimental, quasi-experimental, and qualitative designs will all be considered. Certain theoretical and theological articles will also be considered, given methodological rigor appropriate to the discipline. 

I look forward to receiving your contributions.

Dr. Curtis Lehmann
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • religious beliefs and practices
  • religious communities
  • spirituality
  • suicide prevention
  • suicide intervention
  • suicide prevention
  • suicide stigma

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Editorial

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5 pages, 166 KiB  
Editorial
Introduction to the Special Issue
by Curtis Lehmann
Religions 2024, 15(4), 459; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15040459 - 07 Apr 2024
Viewed by 253
Abstract
This Special Issue reflects a personal interest I have held in the relationship between religion/spirituality and suicidality [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Relevance of Religion and Spirituality for Suicide Prevention)

Research

Jump to: Editorial

17 pages, 296 KiB  
Article
Spirituality-Related Experiences of Continuing Bonds after a Life Partner’s Suicide
by Austėja Agnietė Čepulienė and Beata Pučinskaitė
Religions 2023, 14(12), 1450; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14121450 - 22 Nov 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 909
Abstract
Background: Bereavement after a life partner’s suicide can be a complex experience marked by a grieving process and post-traumatic reactions. Transforming the continuing bond after such a loss is a difficult but important task. Little is known about how spirituality can function in [...] Read more.
Background: Bereavement after a life partner’s suicide can be a complex experience marked by a grieving process and post-traumatic reactions. Transforming the continuing bond after such a loss is a difficult but important task. Little is known about how spirituality can function in the context of continuing bonds during suicide bereavement. This study aimed to reveal how women bereaved by their life partners‘ suicide experience a spirituality-related continuing bond with the deceased. Methods: The sample consisted of 11 women who lost their life partners due to suicide 2–5 years ago. Participants attended semi-structured interviews. Results were analyzed using reflexive thematic analysis. Results: Five themes were generated: Feelings towards the deceased—a tribute to his life; Spirituality provides methods to continue the bond; Continuing bonds in the context of the afterlife; Continuing bonds through spiritual experiences; Spirituality as a way to not continue the bond. Conclusions: The findings reveal the complex nature of spirituality-related experiences of continuing bonds after a life partner’s suicide. Spirituality, if important for the bereaved, influences how the continuing bonds are perceived and maintained. The postvention strategies should consider spirituality’s role in the process of grief and continuing bonds. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Relevance of Religion and Spirituality for Suicide Prevention)
14 pages, 551 KiB  
Article
Religious Commitment and Intent to Die by Suicide during the Pandemic
by Karen Mason, Melinda Moore, Jerry Palmer and Zihan Yang
Religions 2023, 14(10), 1226; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14101226 - 24 Sep 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 830
Abstract
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 10–34-year-olds in the U.S. It is vital to identify protective factors that promote resilience in a suicide crisis. Background: This study explored the contributions of religious commitment (RC) and religious service attendance to [...] Read more.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 10–34-year-olds in the U.S. It is vital to identify protective factors that promote resilience in a suicide crisis. Background: This study explored the contributions of religious commitment (RC) and religious service attendance to decreased suicide intent in 18–34-year-olds. Possible moderators were investigated, including church-based social support, pandemic-related faith struggles (PRFS), and moral objections to suicide. Methods: Participants completed an online survey reporting on RC, suicide intent, church-based social support, religious service attendance, PRFS, and moral objections to suicide. Results: In the convenience sample of 451 18–34-year-olds (M = 24.97; 47.23% female), religious participants reported significantly less suicide intent than non-religious participants. RC and moral objections to suicide were more strongly negatively correlated with suicide intent than religious service attendance, but religious service attendance was associated with lower suicide intent in a regression model. Almost four times more religious young adult participants reported PRFS than not, and PRFS was found to moderate the benefits of social support received in their faith communities. Conclusions: It is suggested that professional caregivers use religious service attendance as a straightforward way to assess a possible protective factor for suicidal religious young adults. Professional caregivers may also assess for moral objections to suicide, which may provide simple decision rules in a suicide crisis. The large number of religious young adults reporting PRFS in this study suggests the need for professional caregivers to assess for spiritual struggles, which may confer suicide risk. Because of the interplay of spiritual risks and protections, mental health providers who are unsure of how to address these in therapy may need to collaborate with and make referrals to faith leaders to increase protections and reduce risks in suicidal religious young adults. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Relevance of Religion and Spirituality for Suicide Prevention)
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14 pages, 668 KiB  
Article
Dimensions of Religion Associated with Suicide Attempt and Ideation: A 15-Month Prospective Study in a Dutch Psychiatric Population
by Bart van den Brink, Matthias Jongkind, Ralph C. A. Rippe, Nathan van der Velde, Arjan W. Braam and Hanneke Schaap-Jonker
Religions 2023, 14(4), 442; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14040442 - 24 Mar 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1665
Abstract
Dimensions of religion contribute in different ways to the in general protective effect of religiosity and spirituality (R/S) against suicidality. Few studies have included a substantial number of dimensions, and even fewer a follow-up, to clarify the stability and contribution of R/S over [...] Read more.
Dimensions of religion contribute in different ways to the in general protective effect of religiosity and spirituality (R/S) against suicidality. Few studies have included a substantial number of dimensions, and even fewer a follow-up, to clarify the stability and contribution of R/S over the course of psychopathology. In this follow-up study among 155 religiously affiliated in- and outpatients with major depression, religious service attendance, frequency of prayer, type of God representation, moral objections to suicide, and social support were re-assessed in 59 subjects. Diverse statistical analyses show a partial change in R/S parameters. Supportive R/S is persistently associated with lower suicidality. R/S at T0 or change in R/S is not associated with additional changes in suicidality over time. The results suggest that the most important change in suicidality can be understood as an effect of a decline in depressive symptomatology, not of changes in R/S. Despite the limited follow-up and sample size, these results emphasize the importance of longitudinal and dynamic evaluation of especially affective and supportive aspects of R/S in suicidal persons. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Relevance of Religion and Spirituality for Suicide Prevention)
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17 pages, 597 KiB  
Article
The Clinical Utility of Spirituality and Religion in Meaning-Making Theory for Suicide Loss Survivors: A Scoping Review
by Emily Post, Jo-Ann Vis and Heather Marie Boynton
Religions 2023, 14(1), 73; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14010073 - 05 Jan 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2152
Abstract
In the case of violent/traumatic loss due to a completed suicide, there can be an overwhelming and complicated grief reaction followed by a spiritual need for the process of sense making and finding meaning. Some emerging literature on suicide loss survivors (SLSs) denotes [...] Read more.
In the case of violent/traumatic loss due to a completed suicide, there can be an overwhelming and complicated grief reaction followed by a spiritual need for the process of sense making and finding meaning. Some emerging literature on suicide loss survivors (SLSs) denotes that suicide loss is more similar to other forms of bereavement but is uniquely characterized by high levels of shame, guilt, self-blame, and stigma. This article examines themes within the current literature on the bereavement process, meaning-making theory, religion, and spirituality. The aim of this scoping review was to consider the question concerning the clinical utility of accompanying meaning-making interventions with a spiritually informed approach for SLS. The research was conducted through a scoping review. Records were identified through database searches of ProQuest (N = 93); OMNI (N = 184); and EBSCO (N = 63). Through a process involving identification, screening, and eligibility guided by inclusion and exclusion criteria, a total of 25 (N = 25) articles were used. These articles were analyzed in-depth for commonalities. Grief experiences, religious and spiritual experiences and meaning-making were three themes that emerged from the literature. In conclusion, this review elevates the importance of an integrated clinical counselling approach that encourages meaning-making within the context of spirituality to promote positive psychotherapy outcomes and growth for SLSs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Relevance of Religion and Spirituality for Suicide Prevention)
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14 pages, 547 KiB  
Article
Religious Affiliation’s Association with Suicidality across Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities
by W. Justin Dyer and Michael A. Goodman
Religions 2022, 13(10), 932; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13100932 - 09 Oct 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2864
Abstract
The objective was to replicate and extend earlier findings examining the intersection of sexual orientation and religious affiliation predicting suicidality. Current analyses used updated data and extended prior work by examining how affiliation relates to suicidality for transgender individuals. Data were collected in [...] Read more.
The objective was to replicate and extend earlier findings examining the intersection of sexual orientation and religious affiliation predicting suicidality. Current analyses used updated data and extended prior work by examining how affiliation relates to suicidality for transgender individuals. Data were collected in 2021 from 46,562 adolescents and were representative of Utah adolescents in grades 8, 10, and 12. In regressions, affiliation predicted suicidality and subsequent models added demographics, family functioning, drug use, feeling socially integrated, and interaction terms between sexual orientation, gender identity, and affiliation. In baseline models, affiliation was related to fewer mental health difficulties. When including drug use and family functioning, most differences became non-significant. This did not differ for sexual minorities. Interactions between affiliation and gender identity were significant. Cisgender males had the fewest mental health difficulties. When other differences were significant, transgender individuals had the highest mental health difficulties. There were no differences for transgender individuals across affiliation except those affiliated with “Other” religions had less depression than those “not affiliated.” However, “Other affiliated” females were higher in suicide attempts than the “not affiliated” and Latter-day Saint males were lower in ideation than the “not affiliated.” Findings largely replicate prior work. In final models, religious affiliation was unrelated to mental health for sexual or gender minorities; though “Other affiliation” related to protection for transgender individuals. The proposition that religious affiliation is negative for sexual or gender minorities was not supported. Longitudinal research is required to determine how affiliation may impact mental health. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Relevance of Religion and Spirituality for Suicide Prevention)
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