There is a positive correlation between suicidal behaviour and strength of religious belief.
As per the findings of a 30-year study conducted by Columbia University and the New York Psychiatric Institute, teenagers, girls in particular, are less likely to think about suicide or die from suicide if they were brought up in a religious household. In other words, the more religious parents are, the less likely their child is to commit suicide.
An intensive study, spanning the course of 30 years, where researchers studied certain families for three generations, have brought these results to light. The families studied, most of which were Christians, had a lower suicide rate than those families with parents who are non-believers. A total number of 214 children belonging to 112 families, all of whom were white, were studied throughout the period of the research. It was also found that the parents’ spirituality was most impactful compared to other factors like parental depression, divorce rates, parents’ gender and others.
It is important to note the study does not show growing up in a religious household with spiritual parents will prevent suicide. It only shows there is a positive correlation between the two variables.
Another important finding of the research is that suicide is the leading cause of death among teenage girls between the ages of 15 and 19 in the U.S.
Finding solace in a spiritual community
Melinda Moore, an assistant psychology professor at Eastern Kentucky University and chairwoman of American Association of Suicidology’s clinical division said a spiritual community can aid those who need help by providing meaning and hope. This leads to a “greater sense of connection,” and clergy can point people towards the direction of professional help.
Myrna Weissman, an epidemiology and psychiatry professor at Columbia University and a senior researcher of the study says those who believe that spirituality or religion is important tend to have “an inner strength.” She says that it’s not about what your faith or religion is, or how often you go to church, but rather about having an inner belief which strengthens you and this subsequently shows in your actions. This is independent of the opinion of your children on religion, she says.
Weissman also said the findings were unexpected, and they took a long time to publish the study as a result.