Preventing suicides a noble mission: A lifeline to reinforce the will to live | Sunday Observer

Preventing suicides a noble mission: A lifeline to reinforce the will to live

13 May, 2018

Depression or loneliness is experienced by everyone at stressful times. Some approach the stressful situation they are in and the depression that follows with strong coping abilities, however some may not be able to cope with the stress as strongly. It is during such times that some may feel living is pointless, and that they are worthless. Such thinking may even result in developing suicidal ideations. However, not everyone who develops suicidal thoughts will carry out the act of ending their lives. So what is the reason behind suicide and what causes it?

A person may commit suicide due to various factors such as, peer pressure, relationship conflicts, family conflicts, loneliness, depression, drug addiction, mental illnesses and many more. According to Clinical Psychologist and Founder of Arnaha Center for Wellbeing Kavitha Amaratunga, suicide may also occur due to different individual personal reasons. A person’s mental state and actions are all a result of a complex collection of thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Depressive thoughts, previous attempts at suicide and feelings of hopelessness about the future most often lead to a person committing suicide. In certain cases, one may spend a lot of time contemplating suicide, whereas another may end his/her life on the spur of the moment.

Fourth place

According to global statistics published by WHO, Sri Lanka holds fourth place in the list of countries with the highest rates of suicide in the world. Although Sri Lanka once had a rate of 47 (reported) suicide incidents occurring per 100,000 of the population, it has now come down to an approximate of 15 per 100,000, according to police statistics in 2016.

Suicide incidents in Sri Lanka have been most commonly reported in rural areas of the country where people have easy access to agricultural chemicals and substances. There is a lack of social support and psychological interventions in rural areas such as the Mahaweli resettlement area, where approximately 70% of the deaths reported had been due to suicide. As agriculture is the main source of income in such areas, people opt for agricultural chemicals as a means of ending their lives in stressful situations. However, as the government has taken initiatives to ban and regulate pesticides in rural areas, reported suicide incidents have significantly reduced. Certain age groups in Sri Lanka vary in the reasons why they want to commit suicide. Individuals in the age group of 15 – 20 might want to commit suicide due to relationship issues, parental pressure, and competition among peers and peer pressure. However, people in the age group of 30 upwards may have reasons such as financial issues, family problems, or midlife crisis. Poverty is a main reason for committing suicide for people living in villages and urban areas of Sri Lanka.


“There is no one particular reason why a suicidal person may end his/her life”, states Sonali, a volunteer at Sumithrayo. “For a person contemplating suicide there could be many factors or a combination of factors and situations that may develop suicidal ideation in them”.

An important fact that should be understood is that not all individuals in a stressful situation would contemplate suicide. This is because different people have developed varying coping mechanisms and skills to overcome a stressful situation or time. Some would have the ability to look at the problem at hand in a rational manner and face the situation strongly. On the contrary, others may not be able to face a stressful situation as strongly and may develop negative thoughts and feelings which may manifest in suicidal ideations.

Many individuals who lack strong coping abilities may opt for unhealthy coping mechanisms such as abusing harmful drugs and alcohol. When persons develop depressive thoughts they may choose to abuse substances in order to avoid seeking help and dealing with their problems. However, instead of being a solution to their stressful situation it could worsen, as the influence of drugs or alcohol will cloud their judgement, causing them to act on their impulse to end their lives.

Warning signs

There are common warning signs that indicate a person is contemplating suicide. For example, a person discussing about death and suicide online, on social media platforms is a common sign a suicidal individual would exhibit. A person may also threaten to kill or harm himself, especially, if he has access to objects to carry out the deed. Other common signs of a suicidal person could be isolating him or herself from society, showing a lack of interest in things that previously interested him/her, addiction to alcohol or drugs, and general statements of being fed up of everything. Such an individual may have a clear idea of how he wants to end his life, which is another sign of a person having suicidal ideations.

Speaking in terms of prevention of suicide, there are many organizations and individuals working with a steady focus on helping and listening to those who need to get back on their feet. One such organization is Sumithrayo, a charity organization founded in 1974 by the late. Joan De Mel. She was approached by Chad Varah, the founder of The Samaritans, to start an organization to help those in need of help with suicidal tendencies, depression and loneliness. With years of hard work, Sumithrayo was born, with a prime focus on preventing suicide by offering to listen to those in need of speaking up about their issues.

The organization has been actively preventing suicide with the help of their services for the past 44 years of operation. The idea behind Sumithrayo’s work is to befriend the people that reach out to them for help, and ensure that he/she knows that they are being listened to and provided compassion. Sumithrayo works with a vision to contribute to society in reducing deaths from suicide and helping people to voice their feelings.

“Suicidal feelings are common, but often leave people feeling isolated”, states Amaratunga. The stigma and misunderstanding behind mental health often restrain individuals who are going through a hard time in their lives to speak up about their issues and seek help from professionals. Thus, ending the stigma and creating awareness on the importance of positive mental health will allow individuals to disclose their mental and social struggles, which would thus contribute in fighting against suicide.

In Sri Lanka, not many are aware of the existence of mental health support systems and organizations, and how readily available such services are. With technology developing every day and information being available at the touch of a finger, approaching such professionals and organizations has become easy for the public. However, awareness needs to be created in order to let the mass population be informed of such services, to help people overcome negativity, stress and attempts at suicide.” What is important is that when we have people we know are experiencing a suicidal ideation we provide them with hope for the future by simply being there for them when they need us most,” says Amaratunga.

Organizations such as Sumithrayo have been in operation over the years in order to make mental health services freely available for the public, and help them combat hardships faced in life and reduce suicide attempts. Sumithrayo’s services are open to the public 365 days of the year from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. either over the phone or face-to-face by visiting their organization at No.60B, Horton Place, Colombo 7. It is important for people to understand that ending their lives under any circumstance is not a worthy act, as there is always help at hand for those who need it. Do not give up; help is only one call away.

Sumithrayo hotline number: 0112696666.