With suicide among students being a crisis in Sri Lanka also, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday marked the World Suicide Prevention Day and various events were organized by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP). According to Sri Lankan newspaper reports, many Sri Lankan female students are known to be committing suicide or thinking of doing so because of the sadistic ragging they are tortured with when entering universities. Tragically those involved in this crime are mainly second year students, who because of some psychological disorder, want to sexually harass the first year students. This year in some universities’ first year students were reportedly forced to attend classes without wearing brassieres, the stress and tension are so severe that many parents say they prefer to even take a loan or mortgage property to send their daughters to foreign universities instead of allowing them to be sexually harassed in a crude manner.
Higher Education Minister Wijedasa Rajapakshe recently ran into a controversy by telling incoming female students to box in the ear those who try to sexually harass them. He said that suspension from the university and jail terms were among the options available to the government to deal with the crisis of ragging, which is one of the main causes of suicide.
With such sadistic ragging going on among university students, there is a grave concern over what sort of attitude the next generation would have when they take up highly placed jobs or even political positions. If new technology and modern standards are producing a sadistic generation, Sri Lanka needs to consider effective counter measures because it appears that many students are being influenced by sexual harassment and the worst form of pornography they have access to with a press of a button on their smart phones.
According to the WHO, a person dies every 40 seconds by suicide and up to 25 times as many again make a suicide attempt. There are also many more people who have been bereaved by suicide or have been close to someone who has made an attempt.
WHO says the projected global suicide rate for year 2020 is one in every 20 seconds. Suicide is now among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44 years. More males commit suicide while more females attempt.
While suicide is rapidly increasing around the world, delightfully in our small country, the suicide rate has greatly reduced from an alarmingly high of 47 per 100,000 population in 1995 to a rate of about 15, according to Sri Lanka Sumithrayo, one of the main movements involved in counseling to prevent suicides.
Although this reduction gives reason to be pleased the rate is still high, and yet more disturbing is the number of attempts which is 10 to 20 times more and steadily on the rise. Death by suicide is more common in the rural areas where agricultural chemicals are readily available, despite great attempts made with respect to use of less toxic chemicals and safe storage.
This brings our focus to the ever-present causes of suicide and the need to be aware, more attentive and concerned about those who may have suicidal feelings, Sumithrayo adds.
Taking a minute to reach out to someone in your community – a family member, friend, colleague or even a stranger – could change the course of another’s life. Individuals who have survived a suicide attempt have much to teach us about how the words and actions of others can be important, and many of them are now working as advocates for suicide prevention and have informed resources which are now readily available, WHO says in giving the positive dimension of this crisis.
According to the WHO people are often reluctant to intervene, for many reasons, including a fear of not knowing what to say. It is important to remember, there is no specific formula. Empathy, compassion, genuine concern, knowledge of resources and a desire to help are key to preventing a tragedy. Another factor that prevents individuals from intervening is the worry of making the situation worse. This hesitance is understandable as suicide is a difficult issue to address, accompanied by a myth that suggests talking about it may instigate vulnerable individuals to contemplate the idea or trigger the act. Evidence suggests that this is not the case. The offer of support and a listening ear are more likely to reduce distress, as opposed to exacerbating it, the WHO says.