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How can religious belief affect suicide risk?

Although religious prohibitions against suicide, a tenet of virtually all the world's great religions, may play a role in dissuading people from attempting suicide, these prohibitions might not tell the whole story. Where there is a protective effect, the protection may reside in dogma and religious tradition, but it might just as well derive from the "connectedness" associated with affiliation with a religion or specific congregation.
Considerable evidence shows that people affiliated with a religion or a congregation have better health outcomes than people who do not (examples of these outcomes relate to tuberculosis, teenage pregnancy, mortality, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). From a cultural perspective, however, a person's formal religious identity is not a protective factor for suicide in and of itself.
Some people have speculated that in cultures oriented more toward the collective, the community, and connections, suicide rates are lower. When the culture strives toward individual success and individual action, people may be unprepared to face setbacks. When successful, isolated persons do encounter setbacks, they may be less prepared to face adversity. Strengthening community ties through religion or social action can be considered to constitute suicide prevention work, but no hard evidence developed to date substantiates this assertion, despite many attempts to confirm the benefits of these practices.
Religious beliefs among adolescents may protect against substance abuse, studies show. The values of shame and sin may serve as protective factors against suicide, but they also create stigma for people who have attempted suicide and their families.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.