Article: Valuing the relationship between faith and suicide prevention
An NSPA lived experience and suicide prevention blog article by Sandeep Saib, NSPA Lived Experience Influencer.
We hear from NSPA Lived Experience Influencer Sandeep Saib about how her strong attachment to her Sikhism faith has played a pivotal role in her mental health journey. She shares her thoughts with us on the importance of her relationship between faith and mental health, and in particular, suicide prevention.
“I am proud to be born into the Sikhism faith, a monotheistic spiritual doctrine with philosophy and teachings at the heart of it, which my family and I have always had a close relationship with. For me, being attached to my faith has instilled in me many cultural factors that I hold in high regard today such as giving structure and meaning to behaviours, value systems and experiences, and the strong correlation between religious involvement and spirituality with better health outcomes and quality of life.
However, going through my own mental health illnesses, there was a time when I in fact lost sight of my faith entirely. As I was going into deeper darker territories including suicidal thoughts, I was moving further away from my faith. When I was struggling, I was struggling in silence, in my own bubble going through the trials and tribulations with my suffering – unintentionally aware how it was playing out, what I was doing and the effect I/it was having beyond me, myself and my mind.
That bubble popped when I tried to take my own life on Friday 29th August 2014.
My life changed.
Why now? Why then, at that very specific point in my life?
I was saved. Saved by my mum. Saved by my family. Saved by my faith.
Moving forward, here are three key learnings that I would like to share with you:
‘Family trust circle’
Once a month, me and my family get together at a café after visiting the Gurdwara and have what we call a ‘Family trust circle’ chat. We each share our positives and negatives of the last month, our true feelings and thoughts, and work through them together. I’m from a big household (a family of nine) and we are a very close unit. Different generations of the family live together. There are lots of different personalities and we’re all really close so most definitely, my family is my backbone and a big source of support for me for as long as I can remember.
So, by having this ‘Family trust circle’ chat has helped all of us to open up, not be ashamed, explore our feelings, intervene early and help each other where we can. It has also given us all a space to relax, reflect and respond and doing it – together. This has been really powerful for me, and other people might like to think about how they can share with loved ones in a way that feels safe for them.
Being a faith leader is about more than preaching and/or leading worship. It is also about leading and taking on the responsibility of guiding people in their lives and acting as a bridge to mental health services, thus a ‘role model’ to many. They play a very powerful role in raising awareness, shaping attitudes, behaviours and practices. Therefore, I believe that it is imperative that they can and do speak out and are making use of the tools that they are given to help heal the hurting and help safeguard as many people as possible from poor mental health and risk of suicide – and support them. I think that we need to all be talking to and collaborating with faith leaders at every level via policy-setting, training, peer to peer support groups, translation of resources and more.
Since 29th August 2014, my faith has deepened and grown in strength and I also started to appreciate having self-faith in myself, an inward thinking/looking approach. Developing and deepening a sense of faith in myself has been an important part of my faith and my journey. This might mean different things for different people, and I would encourage those reading this to consider and explore the role self-faith plays, whether for yourself, those you support, or communities that you serve. For me, self-faith is having a strong belief in yourself, who you are as well as trusting the power of your instincts and having utmost confidence in your abilities and what makes you, you.
I am a firm believer that my experiences happened for a reason, and God kept me alive to go on and try to help others.
That is exactly what I did.
“Mental health advocacy is my way of life, my way of being – now and forever”
As I write this, I am struggling again but it is truly the combination of advocacy work (such as writing this blog for you), my family and my faith which is keeping me grounded, empowered and motivated. Also, as a Sikh, I have learnt that I need to aspire to maintain a mental state of eternal resilience, optimism, and joy; an acceptance that life ebbs and flows with hardship and to rise above that adversity – this is truthfully reflective in the world of mental health today.”
About The Author
Having been diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa, Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and also a Suicide Survivor from the years 2012-2016, seven years later, Sandeep Saib is a prolific Lived/Living Experience (‘Expert by Experience’) Mental Health Advocate, NSPA Lived Experience Influencer, Philanthropist and Public Speaker, sharing her recovery journey to educate and empower others and fight for the cause, especially equality, diversity and inclusion, in the world of mental health. Sandeep also volunteers and collaborates with various charities and organisations to continue making change happen. You can follow Sandeep on Twitter here.