Muslim pilgrims pray near the Islam's holiest shrine, the Kaaba, at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy Muslim city of Mecca. (Mohammed Al-Shaikh/AFP/Getty Images)

Mental Health in Saudi Arabia

Al-Okaz, Saudi Arabia, April 11

Many of us saw the young man who threw himself from the Grand Mosque of Mecca in Riyadh in an attempt to commit suicide. God has allowed him to survive. But think of how many people in the Kingdom actually succeeded in carrying out these satanic ideas. More importantly, what role should society and the Saudi authorities play in helping those who are facing major psychological struggles and experiencing suicidal thoughts? I do not know if there is a single institution that works to help those miserable people who want to take their own lives. In many Toronto train stations I’ve seen ads calling for sympathy: if you think about suicide or have such ideas, there is someone to listen to you. “Contact us immediately,” the ad reads. I have never witnessed similar advertisements in Saudi Arabia. The incident of the young Saudi who threw himself from the height of the mosque must not be viewed in isolation. There are many more Saudi teenagers in similar situations, but their struggle is kept away from the public’s eye. We must openly discuss these issues. We should also acknowledge the fact that many of those with suicidal thoughts find refuge in fundamental religious ideology and join jihadi groups that claim to provide their lives with meaning. Our countries must have associations and bodies that help those in need. I am unsure how other news outlets in the Kingdom will react to the suicide attempt of the young man in Mecca. I am sure many won’t even bother reporting about the incident. The right thing to do is bring these issues into the fore and discuss them, even though they are taboo. The reasons that lead to suicide are often avoidable and can be addressed and alleviated by health professionals. But this will never be possible unless we openly talk about mental health and its challenges to our country. – Abdullah bin Bakhit

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