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Hesham Elsherif | The Way to Hell

Country of origin: Egypt
Project location: Egypt
Program: Arab Documentary Photography Program
Year: 2017

I have a history of clinical depression and suicidal thoughts. Six years ago, when I was 15, I scrawled, “I hate my life, so I am going to kill myself … Goodbye,” across my bedroom wall. Following that, I swallowed scores of non-prescription pills. It was my first, but not last, suicide attempt. A few years later, I penned a suicide note, entitled “The Way to Hell,” before another intentional overdose.

In Islam, as in other religions, suicide is a sin. Therefore, in my native Egypt and across the Arab world, people tend to conceal their suicidal thoughts due to the severity of the associated cultural and social stigmas. This means that suicides are often registered as “accidental” deaths.

From my own story to those of several other young Egyptians, this project untangles life before and after failed suicide attempts. Connecting with other survivors has been a healing force for me — for us — and I can only hope this series will serve as a source of compassion and strength for those who are struggling in silence.