A Recent Poll On The Causes of Suicide Shows Just How Misunderstood Mental Illness is in Egypt
Two days ago, the official page of Al-Azhar’s Dar Al-Ifta posted a poll on Facebook asking the online community about their opinions on the major causes of suicide. The answers included only two options for poll takers to pick from; the first was ‘societal and familial problems’, whereas the second was a ‘weak religious consciousness’.
43,000 people participated in the poll, and between just two choices, the majority, 69 percent, saw that the main cause of suicide is a weakness in religious fortitude, while the remaining 31 percent voted for ‘societal and familial problems’.
To follow up, the 124-year-old religious institute then put forward another question yesterday morning asking if the hardships of life are an ample reason for people to take their own lives. Of the 28,100 people who answered, a staggering 65 percent disagreed, whereas the other 35 percent saw that life could indeed push someone over the edge.
Dar Al-Ifta concluded their campaign with a number of posts reminding Muslims that although a person who commits suicide is not an infidel, suicide remains a great sin and a crime against oneself and Islamic law.
Reproaching Egyptians, the Azhar institute went on to ask society not to sympathize with suicide and ended their campaign with a note on depression and how it is a treatable mental illness.
Many of the commenters went on to trivialize the struggles of those with mental illness, describing them as weak or not religious enough, which led many to criticize the campaign. In response, Dar Al-Ifta followed with yet another post, but this time it was a disclaimer stating: “the only entity responsible for the treatment of people with a mental illness that could lead to suicide is that of medical professionals and not the Egyptian Dar Al-Ifta”.
In the aftermath of the recent suicides that have taken our country by storm, many Egyptians took to social media to raise awareness about suicide and mental health, a taboo topic that is finally coming to light. Yet, this poll on Dar Al-Ifta’s page shows that a large sector of our society still links mental illness to a lack of religiousness, which according to medical and psychological research, is not the case. If Egypt is to become a safe space for those suffering from depression and other mental illnesses, we need to change the way we see these issues.