‘Working Together to Prevent Suicide’ | Sunday Observer

‘Working Together to Prevent Suicide’

13 September, 2020

Not so long ago, I came across a gentleman living in my area, who is a teacher by profession. His wife is also a teacher. Unfortunately, she was afflicted with severe depression and had been under medical treatment for some time. Having suffered for a few months, she had finally decided to commit suicide leaving a short note, intended for her doctor. The gentleman was kind enough to show me the note, written in Sinhala.

It read – ‘Please doctor.. treat me soon, I do not know what is happening to me..I do not feel like doing anything.. My head is burning and hurting.. Sometimes, I feel like taking my own life..’

These were her final words, manifesting her suicidal behaviour. These are the suicidal thoughts of a depressed person. Having written the note, she made her final decision to depart this life, leaving her beloved husband and a little child. Indeed, they were a wealthy and happy family according to the information received.

The reason why I decided to write about this sad occurrence is that ‘World Suicide Prevention Day’ (WSPD) falls in September. Every year, this day is observed on September 10 with a different theme.

This year (2020) the theme was the same as last year – ‘Working Together to Prevent Suicide’. The purpose of declaring a separate day for Suicide Prevention is to make global awareness on the prevention of suicide which has today become the number one cause for deaths in the world.

The cause for the ill-fated, untimely death of the young woman was ‘depression’. A person suffering from this grave mental condition would find it hard to escape death if left untreated, but in modern medical science, there are effective treatments for depressive conditions. Hence, there’s no need to end precious life. If a depressed person follows proper medication and psychological counselling that person would be able to lead a happy life without resorting to the only final alternative – death. Suicide is an intentional act of killing oneself. If a person says he is fed up with living any more or feels like killing himself that person would surely attempt suicide. People tend to do so due to various reasons or perhaps, for no apparent reason – either psychological or psycho-social.

However, according to psychologists, most people who attempt to kill themselves are thought to be afflicted with some kind of acute mental disorder, and those who are highly depressed attempt suicide.

Depression is considered as one of the main causes that lead to an act of suicide.

It is a serious mental disorder which might force to end one’s life. Many are the depressed who have thus far ended or are continuing to end their lives or are living with it. In Sri Lanka, there has been a sharp rise in the number of suicides over the past few years. Sri Lanka is ranked one of the countries in the world with a high rate of suicide, apart from countries such as Guyana, North and South Korea, Lithuania, Mozambique, India, Nepal, Tanzania, Burundi and South Sudan where the rates of suicide are much higher. In view of WHO’s statistics, it is indeed regrettable as suicides are on the increase as never before.

There have been a series of suicidal incidents in the country. Among them are a few students who got higher grades at the exams while there were some who had failed their exams. The death of a female student who got 9 As at the GCE O/Level exam still remains a mystery. Her dead body was found on the rail track. Nobody knows the exact cause of her unfortunate death.

Those unable to succeed in achieving the desired, expected results may get depressed, and attempt suicide. It was reported some time back that a boy who failed in Mathematics at the G.C.E. Ordinary Level exam killed himself by hanging.

Sri Lanka is still a developing country where a majority of the people live below the poverty line. Although the country has made vast strides in some sectors, it is burdened with a heavy debt. Successive governments that came to power have done little to eradicate poverty.

The cost-of-living is skyrocketing and the wage one earns may not be sufficient to support a family. It has not been possible for a person to live without borrowing money from another, for which interest too has to be paid.

A man who had thus borrowed a large amount of money to support his family of three children committed suicide as he was unable to pay off his debt. It was an unfortunate incident reported recently.

While poverty plays a key role in increasing suicide, domestic violence is another contributory factor. According to studies, in Sri Lanka there is a considerable increase in domestic violence.

Some of these violent incidents get reported while many go unreported. Around 75% of suicides are reported from rural communities and 85% of them involve pesticides. Consuming poison, hanging, shooting, jumping in the path of a moving train or jumping into a well and immolation are the common methods in suicide.

A woman who was unable to bear untold suffering at the hands of her drunken husband killed herself by hanging along with her two children. Similarly, a mother attempted suicide along with her two children by jumping off a bridge into a river infested with crocodiles, but her attempt was foiled by the people in the vicinity and the lives saved. The reason for her attempted suicide, as revealed later was her husband’s drunkenness and not caring for the family. Thus, alcoholism has become a problem in the country even if the Government is doing its best to tackle this issue.

Family feuds, excessive alcohol use or substance abuse could be regarded as three major factors that contribute to the increase in suicides in the country. Likewise, work related issues, loss of jobs, break-up of marriages or love affairs and divorce are also some of the causes.

When sadness, feeling low, loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities persist over a long period they can be symptoms of depressive disorder, a common illness worldwide, according to the WHO. The cause of depression is not fully understood, and is a combination of factors such as genetics, biological, environmental, psychological and social (psychosocial).

A depressive might sometimes say he/she is fed up with his/her life, which can largely be an indication of his/her suicidal behaviour.

That person should be identified immediately and directed for proper medical treatment. When one gets recurrent suicidal thoughts the best thing is to consult a psychiatrist or visit Sri Lanka Sumithrayo, a government approved charity where well-trained volunteer counsellors are ready to listen to psychological issues and provide possible solutions.

We should remember that life is precious and living is better than taking one’s own life.