In the recent past we have read and heard over the media of many tragic deaths by suicide, of parents committing suicide after taking away the lives of their own little innocent and helpless children. The incidents of even students denying themselves the right to live are sad expressions of our times. Have these tragic occurrences stirred our individual as well as collective conscience to work towards rectifying the problem of suicide?
Is it that we live in an unhappy society made up of unhappy people? They may be people like us, but deeply troubled about some life situation they are unable to cope with. They may have had a tale to tell, a grief and a pain to share, and unable to overcome it without some one’s help. They may have waited for somebody they could trust, and who would be understanding of how utterly desperate they felt. Not finding such a support the only option would have been to make the final decision!
Theme for this year is “Preventing Suicide: Reaching out and saving lives”
This message envisages connecting individuals, organizations, communities and health care groups across the globe to work towards preventing suicide. It also appeals for supporting the suicidal and alleviating the grief and misery of the survivors of suicide by helping them to cope with their overwhelming sadness, disbelief, guilt, regret and social isolation.
According to the most recent report of the World Health Organization [WHO], over 800,000 people commit suicide across the world each year. The report also notes that the real figures could be even higher, as for a number of reasons such as social, legal or religious taboos, all incidences of suicide may not have been recorded.
"In Sri Lanka suicide is more common in the rural areas where agricultural chemicals are more readily available. In recent years many attempts were made with regard to the use of poisonous chemicals and also of their safe storage."
Suicide is said to be among the three leading causes of death among the 15-40 year age group. More males die by suicide while more females attempt suicide. A failed attempt could leave a person physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually scarred for life!
If a man’s natural desire is to live, why die by suicide?
There is no one single explanation as to why some people choose self destruction. Suicide, as studies show could be the interaction of biological, psychological, social, cultural and environmental factors. The reasons that we see and hear on the surface may be mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, relationship issues, social isolation, significant losses in life, poverty and work place problems among many others. Death may seem to be the only option, but suicidal feelings do not last forever. They need help in the form of a trusted friend, who would not censor, condemn or judge or belittle them. Someone who would accept them for what they are, and listen to them with respect.
Suicide happens when pain exceeds the resources for coping with the pain
Helping such people to talk about their difficulties can help them to see their situation in a different light and work towards diffusing their confused emotions and work towards an acceptable coping strategy. They do not want to be advised. When someone listens with care and understanding one could get into a comfort zone of relief and safety followed by a sense of ‘not being alone – ‘that someone out there is with you’
In Sri Lanka suicide is more common in the rural areas where agricultural chemicals are more readily available. In recent years many attempts were made with regard to the use of poisonous chemicals and also of their safe storage. Suicide by the ingestion of agricultural poisons still remains as the most common method by which people attempt suicide in Sri Lanka.
" Sri Lanka Sumithrayo is an approved Charity and was incorporated by Parliamentary Act No.10 of 1986. What initially began in a small room in Deans Road, Colombo 10, has now grown island wide with 10 branches"
Though incidences of suicide in Sri Lanka have notably reduced since 1995 when we had the highest suicide rate in the world, 47 per 100,000 people it is now reduced by over 50% and stands at less than 20 per 100,000. Still we cannot be complacent for attempts are disturbingly increasing. Statistics collected from hospitals and police stations in different divisional areas of Sri Lanka suggest that, there are as many as 20 attempts at suicide for each death.
Improved hospital management and improved means of communication and transportation have helped in conveying attempters to hospitals before it was too late. We have to thank the humble three wheeler also for being at hand to rush victims for treatment.
Sri Lanka Sumithrayo - Our role in preventing suicide
Sri Lanka Sumithrayo, a care giving voluntary organization was started in 1974 headed by the late Mrs. Joan De Mel. A group of humanitarian persons had as their vision and mission to provide a service available to those who felt that life was not worth living in their lonely, isolated, troubled and desperate life situations. It was meant to be an oasis where one could go without racial, class, religious or any such prejudices and talk in complete confidence with someone who would listen with kindness and empathy. Their aim was based on the alarming number of suicides and attempts that were recorded at the Colombo General Hospital during that period of time.
Sri Lanka Sumithrayo is an approved Charity and was incorporated by Parliamentary Act No.10 of 1986. What initially began in a small room in Deans Road, Colombo 10, has now grown island wide with 10 branches in Kandy, Bandarawela, Panadura, Paduwasnuwara, Matale, Mawanella, Kurunegala, Negombo, Kohuwala and Lunugamvehera. The newest Centre is in Jaffna. They are all open on all 365 days of the year and any one seeking help may simply walk into any of the centres during working hours. Sumithrayo can also be contacted by phone, letter or Email. All Sumithrayo services are free of charge.
Reaching out and saving lives
In the wake of Sri Lanka leading the global suicide rate in 1995 serious consideration was given to move away from befriending at the centres to reach out to the larger community where vulnerable groups had no support of this nature where suicide was rampant.
Homes are visited regularly. There is free and open dialogue with the villagers. Awareness programmes help the villagers in these poverty stricken areas to identify their self worth and inner strengths and to move forward despite whatever barriers they face. Suicide survivors in families are also emotionally supported to cope with their losses and grief. They are helped to feel that they are are no longer forgotten and alone.
This is only a drop in the ocean in comparison to the magnitude of the problem in these suicide prone village communities. Much needs to be done in the sphere of supportive activity in this area. Suicide prevention begins in the home and in the schools. The need of the hour is to be sensitized to work individually and collectively towards minimizing this tragic loss of life.
Community Leaders, State Agencies, the Media and all concerned people need to be more aware of and understanding of suicide and suicidal behaviour and work towards bringing about a non-judgemental, compassionate ,happier, and a more thoughtful and just society where fewer people choose to die by suicide.
For more information you can visit International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) link. www.iasp.info/wspd Sumithrayo’s at 60B, Horton Place, Colombo 7 are inviting all to join them at 8.00pm to light a candle - to show your support for suicide prevention, to remember a lost loved one and the survivors of suicide
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