A crying need | Sunday Observer

A crying need

In Sri Lanka 15.5 suicides per hundred thousand take place per year. Lack of a comprehensive plan to prevent suicides and attempted suicides is a crying need although Sri Lanka has recorded progress from an alarming suicide rate of 26:100,000 in the’ 90s. This year’s theme for Suicide Prevention Day (September 10) -Working Together to Prevent Suicides - stresses the importance of collaboration.

Be alert, be aware!

Though we claim that suicide is due to a sudden decision of an individual, it does not usually happen that way. For the concerned individual a suicidal attempt is the last resort, his or her last cry for help and to be noticed by others. The sad reality is, many may not have a second chance. There are many warning signs for suicidal intentions, mainly seen by the most intimate circle of family/friends. Be alert, be aware - you can help your family/friends and save a life.

* Extreme mood swings - Individuals who have been emotionally ‘down’ suddenly acting very happy or becoming the worst possible.

* Sorting one’s own affairs and giving away ‘treasured’ possessions to others

* Verbalizing the suicidal intent (talking about suicide)

* Talking about feeling aimless/hopeless /extreme loneliness / trapped/imprisoned

* Unusual behaviour (showing anxiety, agitation, recklessness, looking for ways how to commit suicide)

If you feel alone or are struggling with your feelings callSumithrayo on 011 2696666. Its services are free .

The Sunday Observer met with Sumithrayo to get a better understanding of how to work together for the cause and who are the key stakeholders in preventing suicides.

“The ability of preventing suicide starts from your family. From your mother and father. Then the school - your teachers and friends,” a volunteer and experienced member of Sumithrayo, Jomo said.

Sumithrayo identifies key stakeholders, such as parents (family), school (teachers), friends and media who could work together in preventing suicides.

“Having a supportive family is encouraging. A simple family dinner and chat would help a lot. As a result you would understand that you can talk openly and no one is laughing at you. Also you will learn how to deal with things outside. That way your self-esteem will also develop,” Sumithrayo volunteer, Manisha said.

Having good supportive friends, is also important. Especially teenagers could share their ideas with peers rather than confiding in parents or siblings.

“I think this is an area where we are incompetent in. When you have a friend who goes through depression, you cannot wash your hands simply saying that you do not know how to handle the situation. At least you could tell that person in a nice way that you know somebody who could talk to him. Each one of us has the ability to become a Sumithraya (befriender). We do not need the label Sumithrayo. In our own families and schools we can be a Sumithraya,” Manisha said.

Psychologist and Founder of Arnaha Center for Wellbeing, Dr Kavitha Amaratunga said that key reasons behind suicides have shifted from poverty to mental problems not only in Sri Lanka but globally; it is something widely seen among youth.

“The main reason is that there are a lot of demands on youth. They are supposed to excel in their academics, work life and relationships. There is also the question of self-esteem.

There are some cultural factors attached to low self-esteem issues. Some norms are also questionable. For instance, if we bully people saying that they are fat or thin that can lead to a drop in self-esteem. Criticism is also crucial. Especially at school level,” she said.

Dr Kavitha said that the tendency toward seeking the help of a psychologist has gone up even in areas out of Colombo.

“I think people need more access to information. I use social media such as Instagram and Facebook as a tool to reach people and so many inquiries comes through those platforms,” she said.

While Dr Kavitha uses social media to help the mentally retarded, Jomo said that social media is a challenge to mental health.

“Social networking drives people to low self-esteem. For instance, there are people who post on social media pictures of their anniversary celebrations, dining at a fancy restaurant or a holiday. Then what about the vulnerable people who look at these pictures and who cannot do all that? What are their feelings?”he questioned.