Suicide in Saudi Arabia

 What brought this to mind is that recently someone in my circle of acquaintances committed suicide.  Attending the funeral, no one, not a single person used the term suicide. They would mention things that were so obvious like that the departed sat her older sister down just a few days before dying and told her that she was saying her last goodbyes and asked her to take care of a few things for her after she passes away. A couple of months before she insisted that her husband divorce her and when her family demanded to know why, she told them because he is such a great guy and she wanted him to live his life. She also cashed all her savings and gave it to her kids and then sent them to their paternal grandparents. What they would say is that Sabhan Allah, she somehow had a premonition and knew!

Growing up, we were always told that people who commit suicide would spend eternity in hell because life, even our own, does not belong to us so we have no right to snuff it out. And there was a lot of emphasis on eternal hell and that suicide is just the same as murder. Now I don’t know if the eternal hell part is based on scripture or not and I don’t feel like finding out. But I do know that there is a saying from the Quran which essentially means that we should not put ourselves in the path of destruction.

All this background rambling because at the funeral I heard the mother of the deceased and a few others repeatedly say that well at least now she’s in heaven. She always was zahida (uninterested in worldly things). Maybe they knew deep down, but they didn’t want to think that their daughter and sister was being punished for eternity.

In general, Saudi society views suicide as deeply sad but not quite shameful. It’s better to have someone in the family who committed suicide than a daughter who elopes or a son addicted to drugs.  People will gossip for about a month after the funeral and then everything will be shrouded in secrecy and never talked about as if the person who died never was born in the first place.

On death certificates, you rarely have suicide written on them. The family pressures the hospital and doctors probably think what’s the point in an insensitive truth.

Saudi suicides and attempted suicides can be categorized into three types according to gender and nationality of who commits them:

  • Male non Saudi workers who come here on there own leaving there families behind in poverty stricken countries. Open any newspaper and at least once a week you’ll read about a worker who hung himself in his small living quarters. And if you’re reading Al Riyadh newspaper the column will likely be accompanied by a horrific photo of the whole thing. You would have to be a rock not to understand and empathize. These men come here in hopes of a better life and only find extreme loneliness, homesickness and for the unfortunate few employers who have no intention of paying them. On top of that they are openly treated as if they were something less than human.
  • Saudi men. Most suicides committed by Saudi men are financially driven. They either lose huge amounts of money on the Stock Market and throw themselves from a highway bridge or they figure out that they’ll never be able to maintain a Saudi lifestyle and hang themselves. Saudi men have a tendency for public extreme methods of ending it all. In Yanbu there’s a tower notorious for the number of men who threw themselves from it. And one time at work I remember a colleague of mine coming in the morning obviously shaken. She told us that a man wearing what Saudis traditionally wear under their thobes threw himself into the high speed traffic right in front of her.
  • Saudi women commit suicide after long bouts of depression. I know that in the press people write that it is because they are forced into marriages. But in my experience of middle class Saudi I have yet to come across anything as melodramatic as a woman being forced to marry someone she doesn’t want. Not to say that that does not happen, it’s just that when it does it’s usually in the poorer parts. However when it comes to my part of the Saudi neighborhood, you can see the signs long before the end. Women who are educated cooped up in villas with no purpose in life except to be the frill and fluffy component of the family. They don’t even have to clean up after themselves and then they finish their education and there are no jobs and nothing for them to do that would light up their passion or give them purpose besides finding something to chat about with their elderly mother over tea. They fall into depression, stop attending social occasions, surrounding families start to forget what that particular daughter looks like and then a year or two later there’s a funeral.

36 Comments

Filed under Culture, Gender Apartheid

36 responses to “Suicide in Saudi Arabia

  1. saudiwoman

    LOL yes it was🙂 had to get it out of my system. sorry.

  2. Nefertiti

    indeed it is depressing😦

  3. Saif

    It is criminal on part of a scholar or serious student of Islam to be unaware or unconcerned about such issues, especially when she/he lives in the same society where this is happening.

    Reflecting on the Islamic sources, and working towards, and actively participating in providing solutions to such socio-cultural problems is among the foremost responsibility of the Ulema.

    If this is not happening, it is reflective of the sad state of affairs of our leaders specifically, and our societies generally.

  4. Andrew

    It is always and especially lamentable that the ulemaa and their instrument, the Committee, focus on the irrelevant issues that concern them, rather than a promotion of virtue, such as confronting our endogenous socio-cultural problems.

  5. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Saudi Arabia: Attitudes towards suicide

  6. muneebsaeed

    depressin..
    sad

  7. I think you can include foriegn women in the suicides too not just men. I do think much of these people come with mental issues to begin with. Than the distance between them and family makes it worse.

    With Saudi women postpartem depression should be looked at. Although there are many saudis who swear saudi women don’t get it like they are immune. Depression overall is blown off as one not saying “mashallah” enough or in some way being ungrateful. Help is rarely extended and even more rarely sought. Even the intervention for attempted suicides are rediculous.

  8. This would be a very interesting anthropological study. Maybe a comparison study between Saudi women and UAE nationals (where they ideally have more mobility and options). Hummm….sad…

    anthrogeek10

  9. lestat

    Can Saudi women do something in order to give herself purpose in life, like involving in some humanitarian movement for war casualties, or working for development programs in poor countries, or environmental protection organization or other thing alike?

    Is it possible in Saudi Arabia for women to do stuffs like that?

  10. Arabiah

    Our country makes people depressed. some people make other people depressed.crazy scociety. crazy laws. abonormal in every thing and they think they are special. what a lie…

  11. Andrew

    Lestat,

    I believe (but I am not a woman) that it is quite difficult in many families for women to engage in the charitable activities that you describe.

  12. Niyaz

    Its quiet sad to read & pls don mistake ,the fact is actually the Country which is making one too depressed. Even without stress in their workplace , saudi’s environment itself make both men & women to a mental depression , I myself faced it during ma first 6 months & i took almost 1 year to make ma mind to survive in Kingdom.

  13. Arabyah

    It’s not just hard for Saudi women to get involved in good things. it is extremely hard for a women in Saudi Arabia to pursue her dreams even if the society encourages the goal. it does not encourage the method ‘women going out chasing their dreams and being the change they want to see in the world’

    Neyaz

    I hope you recovered after the cultural electric shock. you know I think Indonesia,Bangladish….witch typical Saudis make fun of as undeveloped countries- can be a better place than Saudi Arabia. if it wasn’t Makkah and Madinah. I’d sayed Fu** Saudi Arabia

    sorry but I am angry.

    • BILAL NAMWAR

      Yes Countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia are much better then Saudi Arabian Desserts(Except Makkah and Madinah), in the sense these countries have four seasons in a year, diverse cultural values, freedom of expression although no enough natural resources. but committing suicide is sin(Haaram) in Islam.

  14. Thanks for bringing this issue to light. It’s a topic which is swept under the carpet here and most people are in denial about. I agree that this country can cause people, especially unfulfilled and stifled women, to go off the deep end – not that living elsewhere cannot do the same. Some people are just prone to depression. But not recognizing the problem and not having adequate steps in place to deal with it does not help matters one bit. There is a stigma here toward mental illness and depression that Saudis need to get over. It exists and it’s time to wake up and face reality and get these people the help and support they need. Families are losing their loved ones but they would rather remain in denial than try to save the person. That’s pathetic.

  15. abdullah

    I am glad to see such blog. This topic attract my slow typing finger to write. Suicide to start with is international phenomen. There is a lot of reasons to commit but Major depressive disorders is major reason of suicide. 80% of people committing suicide are depressed. 15 % with other mental illnesses and 5% for other reasons. Major depressive disorder could associated with any stressor, but it could come without any stressor. The etiology of Major deprssive disorder is complex. I would be happy if your explanation is enough to cause Major depressive disorder that will be easy to solve. Major depressive disorders is 8th leading cause of death and could the 2nd in 2020. It is more in women 10-25% and half of this figure in men. Major depressive disorder is not just being depressed or sad. It is a disorders with good eviedence support disturbances in brain neurochemestry presented with at least 2 weeks of continoues depressed mood and/ or loss of interest or pleasure plus other signs and symptoms. I would write more about Major depressive disorder but this will withdraw the attention from suicide. There is a lot of risk factor associated with suicide; one of them is religion. Islam is a prtective factor, that doesn’t mean muslims don’t commit suicide but they are less comparing with others. You raised a question is your friend not going to heaven. I am sure no one dare to answer this question because that under Allah’s control. Is islam telling that killing your self is a cause to go to hell?. I am not the best to answer the question? But your question raise a question on my minde. As I remeber and please correct me if I am wrong; The evidence that the will to go to hell if he kills himself comes from the Prophet Mohammed “upon him best prayers and peace” Hadeeth when one of muslims solder kill him self because he didn’t tolerate pain. Is this similar to suicide due to Major depressive disorders given the idea that Major depressive disorders is an illness can get anyone regardless his religous state and it is associated to cogntive distortion. I don’t know the answer. I would love if any scholars in this regards help us in this question. But It should be clear for every body that islam is one of protective factor regarding suicide, other factors like being married or has occupation also other protective factor. I thank you again for this topic.

  16. abdullah

    I did a small research I am glade that I found a good refrence to return to http://www.inter-islam.org/Prohibitions/suicide.html#The%20reasons%20that%20lead%20a%20person%20to%20commit%20suicide
    thank you again

  17. Jennifer Latessa

    Good Day Eman,

    How are you? My name is Jennifer Latessa and I am a student at the University of Vermont. I am an Environmental Studies major with a minor in Anthropology. I am taking a “Gender in the Middle East” course and as part of my assignment, I am responding to your blog. Nevertheless, I found your blog to be incredibly useful and interesting. You seem to be educated and devoted to your interest in the well-being of the people in your country. Your blog has been a useful guide for me, as I am only beginning to learn about the Middle East and its complexities. I was particularly drawn to this post, “Runaway Saudi Woman”, and your site because you address my focus: Gender and transportation in Saudi Arabia. Thank you for sharing this deeply emotional explanation of gender differences in suicide. I am trying to better understand your culture and your stories give me some insight, but also raise many questions. I am going to continue reading your past and future blogs for my research. Do you think you could recommend to me or post some good literature/information/experience on what gender differences and transportation is like for your personally or in Saudi Arabia in general? I would really appreciate it. And thank you for writing.

    Keep making a difference,
    Jenny

  18. Emily

    Hello,
    I too am a student in my third year at the University of Vermont taking a class on Middle Eastern studies & Ethnography. Your blog attracted me because I am a social work major here with a passion to help those in need. Sounds kind of corny! but I grew up seeing many people with depressive disorders and those who felt that committing suicide was the only was “out”. As many other comments illustrate above, our competitive, fast-paced, economically driven society does indeed bring about many insecurities and depression for many individuals. I actually had the impression that suicide mainly occurred within youth culture; as it does in America. Your blog fascinates me because it allows me to understand and be more culturally competent especially with regard to helping others. Anyone at any age needs a helping hand, open ears and big heart. Do you see similar depressive symptoms and suicide with teenagers? Are there programs, therapy, self-help strategies for those who are going through or may commit suicide? If so, how do you think they work? Do they have a beneficial outcome; moreover how much mental health support is prevalent where you live? It sounds like its a topic not necessarily discussed because of the negative outcome and stigma suicide has. Thank you for your bringing up tough issues, as you said in another blog about Sunni and Shia muslims- it’s the only way we can get over taboos- by bringing them to the forefront.

  19. Hussain

    where does one go to get help in KSA?

    im sorry but your page is like the closest thing i could find to any answer

  20. AOSAF

    You are so funny – hahaha

  21. rizwan khan

    when you dont have any other way to heal your pain ,its a better way you got.
    ha ha ha……
    i may be fool to tell like this but i have experienced it

  22. Hanouf

    I’m very happy that someone spoke about this, This country is causing not only socially for people to get depressed, but also because of caging, we have no freedom to speak or freedom for anything, this country in my view is Nazi, let me explain why, Nazi’s are nationalist this country is extremely nationalist most people here will shut up just to make their country look better and praise it for all the “accomplishments”, Nazi’s also believe that people who have power are the people who have the RIGHT to take their power and use it for whatever they like while the others fallow and suffer for the pleasure of the disgusting inhuman power filled people, Nazi’s also are racist towards race and religion and do i really have to explain or prove this statement? everybody who lived here heard and saw racism, not to mention the law that doesn’t allow Jews which is a horrific similarity between Nazi’s and Saudi, there are so many examples but i just want to give one last example Nazi’s believed a womens job is to breed and take care of the children and in my opinion i found that more acceptable than what Saudi considers women, most men in power and cultural old women who have northing better to do but agree with insane people, consider women slaves, they are made in this world to kneel down to her father/husband/brother and serve them.

    every government listens to the people this government also goes with what the people want let me explain who ARE the people

    we have the princess and the people who have power and money>>> who pay or cooperate with “religious police” and shiekhs (because they have the power to judge in a trial) these people will kill brainwash or threaten anyone who speaks or does anything that involves “change” and logic>>> the people us Saudi women/middle or poor class men and women/ foreigners/ and even rarely the good hearted and logical men who have power we have no say because they brainwashed everyone into thinking that the religions police or shiekhs(judges) are doing this for the sake of keeping sin away from us, first thing is first these people are hypocrites many of us have seen them “sinning” ever freakin day, second these people will ACCUSE someone of doing something “sinful” to “execute” their moment to change this country, so with all honesty i think women and men have every right to commit suicide based on this country and how they cage or abuse us, but i would rather people risking their lives to make a movement to change and to take back the power of the people that was rightfully ours, because i can’t do it alone.

  23. Tagore

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    @Hanouf

    I,m not sure if you’re Saudi or not , but the way of you attacking every single thing about Saudi Arabia , I would say that you’re not .

    unless your grandfathers are the ruler of this country back then,,,, what the hell is originally yours that you talked about ?!

    I see that you have some really extreme mind and you want saudi to be USA in a day ,, then, if you want that , go ahead and risk your life for the sake of changing , but before you do that ask yourself this : will I make any difference ?

    believe me , no one will give a damn.

  24. That guy

    @Hanouf
    Sadly true😦

  25. Ulla

    Depression and suicide.. its quite common problem in whole world..only different things to blame for it. One woman kills herself coz she hasnt food for her kids,another coz she appears to have everything but her life is empty and her mind has nothing to focus on..same with men i think..get this get that culture,be rich,be smarter, be ..whatever…too much pressure. And on top of that is fear of being labeled as “mental” therefore not many people seeks medical advice. I was talking to one of my patient who suffers depression..i still remember words “There is no hell after death, hell is here,everything is grey and im surrounded by shadows.I sleep and i wake up in my own grave. My mind is gone and its only sad shape of human wandering around, counting days to go..”
    If anyone interested please browse “pyramide of human needs” i think it provides lots of explanation…

  26. What is the state of mental health services in Saudi Arabia?

  27. How does the Media portray people who commit suicide in Saudi Arabia?

    In the case of a poor migrant worker?

    In the case of someone who was rich and then became broke?

    In the case of a women who became overwhelmed by depression?

  28. escortdiary

    I really enjoyed what you wrote about reasons why Saudi women get depressed.

    It is such a myth that living in luxury with servants to clean up after you, and to be able to shop and buy any material possession you desire — but it becomes mundane and pointless.

    I am a Sociology major, and am deeply fascinated by the lives of Saudi women. I’ve noticed many Saudi young females are materialistic, and are draped in luxury. I often wonder about the ones who have other ambitions, such as to work, to pursue further education, to travel and experience the world. It must be terrible when one is denied being able to do such things.

    I can speak from experience and although I’m not Saudi I know that luxury cannot equate to happiness (at least for those who are seeking something deeper in life).

    Ma Salama

  29. candy

    SAUDI WOMEN KILL THEMSELVES BECAUSE THE WANNA BE LIKE WESTERN BITCHES BUT THANKS GOD THERE IS SOME CONTROL WHICH AVOID IT THEN FEEL TOO MUCH DEPRESS THEY CAN NOT BE PROSTITUTES FUCKING HERE AND THERE WITH DIFFERENT MEN THEN THEY KILL THEMSELVES BECAUSE THE STILL NOT KNOW THE GIFT THEY HAVE BEING MUSLIMS RESPECTFUL WOMEN. ARAB WOMEN ARE DIRTY BITCHES. UNDER THE SCARF MAY GOD SAVE NEW MUSLIMS WHO REALLY VALUE AND LOVE ISLAM, BYE BITCHES!!

  30. An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a coworker who had been doing a little research on this. And he actually bought me lunch because I stumbled upon it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to discuss this subject here on your web site.

  31. It seems like there should be centers where people can go for support and friendship. also to encourage them in the love of God so they will not feel alone or abandoned

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