Suicide prevention has never been more important – but how can people receive the support and hope they need if the very topic remains taboo? SAT-7 is one of very few voices speaking out about mental health crisis and suicide in the Middle East. As our channels raise awareness, our Audience Relations teams are supporting and counselling viewers in crisis, providing genuine hope when it seems all hope is lost.
“I was divorced three years ago. I can’t see my two children and I’ve been depressed for two years. A month ago, I was alone on my birthday. I felt so lonely, and I wanted to end my life, but I decided to watch Homemade one last time. That day the presenter was talking about God’s love and patience. She talked about delivering ourselves to Him and giving Him our pain. Now, I have hope. I am reading the Bible and praying every day, and I believe that one day I will see my children again. Jesus Christ is with me; He is taking care of me. I thank you all – you have been tools for God to do this in my life.” – Bahar* in Turkey
These words from a female viewer show how the most vulnerable people can be forgotten in Middle Eastern society – and how SAT-7 can be a lifeline for viewers in crisis. Audience Relations (AR) staff at SAT-7’s Arabic, Farsi, and Turkish channels often hear from viewers desperate for help, both with their own mental health crises and for those of family members. When a message is a literal cry for help, a member of the AR counselling team is assigned to contact and support the viewer and, where possible, encourage them to contact with a mental health professional locally.
There is also a need to break down taboos and aid prevention in the Middle East and North Africa, where suicide is seen as shameful and not to be discussed. SAT-7’s channels broadcast programs that offer mental health and spiritual support, as well as others that address the social issues that contribute to mental health crises.
And, in recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day (10 September), SAT-7 ARABIC is broadcasting a short video to help families recognise early warning signs and guide them through a series of steps to help loved ones in crisis. “For many people, this may be the only awareness message they see,” says Mary Joseph, SAT-7’s Cairo-based Communications Officer. “There is little reporting on suicide as a public health matter in Egypt.”
In the Persian-speaking world, where suicide is a widespread problem, there has been little in the way of prevention or helplines for those in crisis. Although in recent years some services have been set up, in one instance the service only operates on Mondays. Meanwhile, the rate of suicide is tragically rising even among children. Since January this year, in Iran’s Kurdish regions alone, 35 children have died by suicide.
But in the stories of our viewers, SAT-7 regularly sees the power of hope in God to save lives.
“I have experienced a great deal of hardship in my life, from the time I was a child until the time I was married at a young age,” shares Pari*, a woman from Iran. “Although it was not a good marriage I stayed with my husband and had four children with him. My husband did not show me any kindness. I was hurt emotionally and physically and four times attempted suicide.
“For the past four years I had no peace and was in turmoil, and then at the age of 65 I became a believer. The Lord Jesus Christ, the living God, worked in me and brought me peace. Because I wanted to know Jesus better I came to your channel and my heart has been warmed and I have hope.”
An Iranian man, Shadmehr*, also shared his story with SAT-7 PARS. “I have been deeply depressed and have regularly had very dark, suicidal thoughts. One day I happened to start watching your channel. Through your programmes I got to know Jesus Christ and from that day I have felt so much better. Before that day I had no faith in God or in anything else. But now I want to follow Jesus.”
Steps to help someone having suicidal thoughts:
- Communicate with them so that they feel appreciation and care
- Give them time to reply
- Protect them from anything they might use to harm themselves
- Stay next to them and listen to them
- Express your support and love
- Help them seek support
- Continue communicating and caring
From a video shared on SAT-7 ARABIC
- Please pray that more people across the Middle East and North Africa will be restored to hope in God as they access support from SAT-7.
- Pray for taboos around mental health struggles and suicidal thoughts to be broken down in the Middle East, so that people can access the lifesaving help they need.
- The number of suicides globally increased 60% from 1960 to 2012 and around 75% of all cases were in developing nations. Please pray for increased recognition of suicide as a public health issue and for greater and more effective prevention efforts.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please seek help. Call the Samaritans on 116 123 for free or get in touch in other ways here. If you are in immediate danger, please contact your local emergency number (e.g. 999 in the U.K.).
* Names changed for security reasons