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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Characteristics of Attempted Suicide in the Middle East and North Africa Region: The Mediating Role of Arab Culture and Religion


The general lack of awareness of mental health in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, particularly within its Arab countries, accounts for limited mental health services and stigmatization of psychiatric conditions in the region. Suicide is a drastic consequence of mental health neglect. Suicidal attempts are one form of presentation to emergency departments (ED) in healthcare centers across the Arab countries in the MENA region. We collected data from various research studies in the region to narrate such presentations. This epidemiological country-by-country summary includes the characteristics of suicidal attempts in the Arab region, with a focus on methods, causes, and management of cases. The summary demonstrates that suicidal attempts in this part of the world share sociocultural and logistic grounds. The prominent archetypes of suicidal attempts are middle-aged Arab women ingesting poisonous substances secondary to familial or interpersonal stressors. We also link these presentations to the Arab culture and its associated beliefs, which at times can dictate privacy and stigmatization of mental health and suicide. Even though religion plays a role in mollifying suicidal attempts, it might exacerbate stigma regarding suicide among Arab societies. Lastly, we recommend management measures that enhance suicide risk detection in the ED and provide an ameliorated understanding of suicidal ideations and behaviors of patients in the Arab countries of the MENA region.

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