The Boston Globe has an excellent article on whether suicide bombers are largely motivated by religious fanaticism or whether some might have symptoms of low mood and hopelessness that encourage them to end their lives.
The traditional thinking is that suicide bombing is enabled by concepts of martyrdom and retaliation and has little to do with a wish to escape a painful existence – as happens in ‘psychiatric’ suicides linked to sadness and mental illness.
But more recently, some researchers have begun to question whether some bombers might have been suicidal before being recruited, perhaps making them vulnerable to extremists seeming to offer an ‘honourable’ way out.
The issue is by no means settled but the Globe article does a great job of capturing the state of the research, although somewhat ironically, the debate seems to have become quite polarised.
But despite the accounts from their own published papers, scholar after scholar had dismissed the idea of suicidality among bombers. [Criminologist] Lankford remains incredulous. “This close-mindedness has become a major barrier to scholarly progress,” Lankford said.
Link to Boston Globe on the motivations of suicide bombers.