The Sunday Leader

Suicide On The Rise

by Ashanthi Warunasuriya

In the recent past, suicides seem to have increased in Sri Lanka with many reports of youngsters having committed suicide in the news.  In fact there are around 3,500 suicides being reported every year in Sri Lanka. In 1995 however, Sri Lanka had the highest number of suicides in the world but now, we have come down to the 4th place. It is unclear whether the rate of suicides has reduced in our country or whether the rates of suicides in other countries have increased.

According to psychologists, social and mental issues contribute to persons committing suicide. Hence they say that what is most essential is to alter people’s attitudes. It is said that a suicide takes place every 40 seconds somewhere in the world. Therefore it is reported that every year around 800,000 to a million lives are lost due to suicides.

Recently a leading university science student had jumped into the Kalu Ganga in an attempt to commit suicide, but fortunately for her the Navy was able to rescue her and saved her life. Many attempt to commit suicide due to failure in exams, failed love affairs, failure to achieve their expectations etc.

One of the main reasons that people are driven to commit suicide, especially among the youth is broken love affairs. Recently, in fact a Peradeniya University Science Faculty student had thrown himself before the Badulla bound train and committed suicide. Then just last week, a popular actor had committed suicide by hanging himself in his room where he was boarded over a love affair. Hence one cannot say that it is just the uneducated that tend to commit suicide. Even this actor was an IT graduate.

Since 1996 when the special Presidential Task Force set up the National Policy on suicide prevention, it is recognized that mental illness, alcohol and drug use, poor coping skills, are all contributory factors that lead people towards suicide in Sri Lanka. Services are therefore targeted towards helping people who fall into these categories. The fact that suicide is invariably the outcome of a combination of factors – environmental, psychological, sociological and biological is now accepted.

Sumithrayo has been in the forefront of suicide prevention by befriending and empowering the lonely, depressed, despairing and suicidal with emotional support. This is a free and confidential service. The Colombo centre with the strength of almost 100 volunteers has over 8,000 callers per year who seek befriending via face to face, telephone, by letter and email.

They have launched a programme ‘no matter what the past is- let’s start life anew’, to assist those in despair and need assistance to cope with their issues. They are an organisation that is committed to helping those in distress and has branches island-wide. According to the Chairman of Sumithrayo Kumudini de Alwis her organisation provides counselling and advice to anyone in need.

Suicide is not something that can be condoned nor accepted. No matter what the issue is that is worrying a person, suicide is never the answer. However, some reach a stage of desperation that they feel that they are unable to cope with the problem and think that suicide would put a stop to their pain and suffering, forgetting the burden and pain it causes those who love them such as their families.

Evidence is mounting that genetic factors may be included in the many determinants of suicide. Clinical studies of psychiatric patients have suggested that risk of suicidal behaviour is increased by the presence of family history of suicide. The genetic susceptibility to suicide, however, tends to affect individuals only in association with stress or psychiatric illness. Around 35-58 % of suicides are attributed to genetic factors.

Those affected by the war too are more prone to suicide, having gone through many harrowing experiences. Alcoholism is also a huge contributory factor in suicide. Suicide is an escalating public health problem, and alcohol use has consistently been implicated in the precipitation of suicidal behaviour. Alcohol abuse may lead to suicide through disinhibition, impulsiveness and impaired judgment, but it may also be used as a means to ease the distress associated with committing an act of suicide.

According to the Penal Code paragraph 302 suicide is an offence but since it has no direct bearing on society it is not implemented properly. Yet it is something that sets a bad example and as we have seen in the recent past, young children too are attempting suicide even for trivial reasons. They get the notion perhaps that suicide is the end to their problems or pain. Hence those prone to suicide should be assessed and treated in time, so that it can be prevented. In fact, those prone to commit suicide either talk about it way before they attempt it or show signs of distress. Therefore it is important to access these situations at the right time and provide the necessary treatment to those who require it.

Currently in families both mother and father are occupied with earning and providing for the family that often children are either left alone or with servants. Hence, these children are withdrawn and distant from the family. This makes it hard to either parent to notice changes in a child’s behaviour until eventually the child commits suicide which then is too late. The family fabric in this country has somewhat been damaged in the pursuit of materialistic requirements.

Sri Lanka was once known as a majestic nation where only the brave sacrificed their lives for the country. However, now many are opting to commit suicide unable to face life and its challenges. Family is where this problem can first be detected. Hence, it is important for families to forge that closeness between children and parents, so that children can come to their parents when they are disturbed or distressed and parents too need to be available for their children in such instances.

Suicide is certainly not an option and this should be inculcated in the minds of our children. They must be made to understand that there is always a solution to any problem and it can be dealt with and suicide is not the solution. Education should not just be limited to books and mental strength and the right attitudes should be inculcated in our younger generation to make them resilient mentally.


2 Comments for “Suicide On The Rise”

  1. Sangaralingham

    Suicide is one raggedy every citizens need to be aware of. Many of us well known in our own heart minds undergo years of depression in our younger days multile factors played family financial crisis exam able to enter university employment lack of money to feel wanted. Society st large with family friends must see warning signs help out all in state of docial limbo. Government must play it role to find solution for these if it happen nationally at different areas. Facilities for psychiatric mental health clinics should be available

  2. Roshan

    1. parents : The father and mother go to work leaving the children at home which would naturally lead to depression. Most of the time both of them go to earn to live a luxurious imaginary life (not all).

    parents do not have time to spend time with children, result is depression, children turn to bad habits, becoming friendly with evil mannered etc .and disappointed.

    2. Young : use of high tech and social media – uncontrolled, even the young children watch stunt and dracula, horror pictures, speeding games which would spoil the mentality and thinking power.

    3.teens : living an imaginary life wasting valuable productive time and later realizes after the opportunities are lost, which may lead to depression.

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