Thursday, June 1, 2017

Hold on, pain ends!

Ruwanthi Abeyakoon-Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What happens when it hurts too much to live? Can it really be too painful for someone to live one more moment with emptiness, depression, and despair? Yes, for some people suicide seems like the only way out.

The rationale behind suicide, which is defined as the intentional taking of one's own life, can be as simple or as complex as life itself. The person who commits suicide may see his or her actions as some sort of solution to a severe physical or psychological dilemma. Many people each day walk the pavements of life with enormous amounts of emotional pain. Living is difficult when you lose the one you love, your job, feel backed into a corner or entangled in financial constraints. Some will say there is no reason to live after the spouse has died when there is no way out of the financial troubles, no more purpose of living after serious injury or illness. This thinking can trap a person into a narrow chute, seeing their demise as the only reasonable choice.

But not everyone contemplates suicide. Some may hold on to strong religious beliefs that prevent them from ever taking such action. Others hold on to an important value in life which gives them hope and help them seek another way. People with good emotional health are in control of their behaviour and their emotions.

Challenges of life

Emotionally healthy people are more than capable of handling the challenges of life. They are more able to cope with difficult situations in life, bounce back and move on. However, not all of us are blessed with good emotional health and sadly many people do consider thoughts about ending their life. Wanting to die is not enough to trigger suicide. To end their own lives, humans need the guts and the means to carry out their plans. Every person who contemplates killing themselves is not truly interested in ending their time on earth. For many, suicidal thoughts are about escape. It is merely the idea of leaving the bonds that bind them to other people, responsibilities, burdens and the despair of what they can’t change. Sumithrayo, a government approved charity organisation, is taking untiring efforts to alleviate human misery, loneliness, despair and depression and thereby prevent suicide in Sri Lanka.

Global suicide rate

“Suicide is a complex problem for which there is no single cause or single reason. It results from a complex interaction of biological, genetic, psychological, social, cultural and environmental factors. It has no racial or class distinctions and suicidal thoughts have no holidays. They can occur anytime,” Jomo Udaman, Trainer and represent of the Council of Management, Sumithrayo said.

“A person who is suicidal feels isolated and alone with his or her problem. At times like this talking about their stressful situation with a non-judgemental, accepting, understanding and caring person can throw a different light on the situation and help diffuse the suicidal impulse.

People faced with an emotional crisis mostly require informal and confidential emotional support. A friend, who has the time to listen, does not advice or criticise but helps the person to come to terms with the situation and feel confident to cope with it,” he added.

Sumithrayo, founded by Joan De Mel in 1974 is at present housed at Horton place, Colombo 07. The organisation was incorporated by Act of Parliament No.10 of 1986. Sumithrayo shares the same vision as  Samaritans of UK and Ireland and as a member of Befrienders Worldwide, the international arm of the Samaritans, follow the same principles and practices.

“There are about 100 volunteers in our organisation. The volunteer service is available 365 days of the year to provide confidential emotional support for people who are experiencing, feelings of distress or despair, including those that may lead to suicide. A better network of a support system should be established to prevent suicide,” Uduman said.

Uduman highlighted that Sumithrayo has been at the forefront of suicide prevention. “This is a free and confidential service. We are open from 9 am to 8 pm every day of the year. Anyone who needs their support can call 2692909, 2683555, 2696666 or visit us at 60B Horton Place Colombo 7 or email: People of all ages seek to befriend from us for concerns that include marital, family, domestic violence, sexual abuse and harassment, relationship issues, mental health, grief, loneliness and low self- esteem,” he said.

“Instead of sympathising, we empathise with their shame, anger, embarrassment, guilt or rejection. Attempting Suicide is never the result of a single factor or event and is likely to have several inter-related and complex causes. The single factor or event like a scolding or a broken relationship is the trigger that causes unbearable pain coupled with the inability to cope leads to suicide,” Uduman added.

Suicide in Sri Lanka

According to global statistics of the World Health Organisation, one person commits suicide every 40 seconds (16 per 100,000 population). The projected global suicide rate for the year 2020 is one in every 20 seconds. Suicide is now among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15 to 44 years. More males commit suicide while more females attempt.

At an average, 12 persons commit suicide in Sri Lanka every day. Whilst suicide is rapidly increasing around the world, the suicide rate has greatly reduced from an alarmingly high rate of 47 per 100,000 population in 1995 to a rate of 16 (police statistics 2010) in Sri Lanka. “Sri Lanka had the world’s highest rate of suicides in 1995. Although the number has reduced gradually, the number of attempts which is 10 to 20 times more is steadily on the rise. This clearly indicates that there is still an acute national need to help those who need emotional support. 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,” Manisha Wickramanayake, Trainer/representative of Management Council, Sumithrayo said.

“Young adults and the elderly are the most vulnerable in our society. Poor coping or decision-making skills and the absence of a support system is one important factor that leads to suicide. In 1996 when the special Presidential Task Force set up the National Policy on suicide prevention, it was recognised 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,” she added.

Media coverage of suicide

“Reporting of suicide on media at times promotes suicide. Dramatic coverage on suicide stimulates the vulnerable readers and we are unconsciously promoting suicide. Thus the coverage should include stories of hope and recovery, information on how to overcome suicidal thinking and increase coping skills, Surangi Gunawardane, Trainer/ representative of Sumithrayo Management said.

The potential for online reports, photos/videos, and stories to go viral makes it vital that online coverage of suicide follow site or industry safety recommendations. Social networking sites often become memorials to the deceased and should be monitored for hurtful comments and for statements that others are considering suicide. Message board guidelines, policies, and procedures could support the removal of inappropriate and/or insensitive posts.

“We are currently tackling Facebook, Internet and other social media sites. People get involved in these when they are isolated. We hope to reach out the young generation in this regard,” Gunawardane said.
The stories of suicide might have an effect on vulnerable individuals or people connected to the person who has died. Providing information on how to contact appropriate local and national sources of support can encourage people experiencing emotional problems or suicidal thoughts to seek help which in turn can save lives.

Details of suicide methods have been shown to prompt vulnerable individuals to imitate suicidal behaviour. Thus care should be taken when giving any detail of a suicide method. Reporting on suicide methods may also drive people to the internet to search for more information and vulnerable individuals may identify with a person who has died, or with the circumstances in which a person took his or her own life. It is also important not to brush over the complex realities of suicide and its devastating impact on those left behind.

Reporting suicide as a tragic waste is more beneficial in preventing further deaths. A sensitive story that explores the emotional devastation of a suicide on family and friends may prompt people with suicidal thoughts to reconsider or to seek help thus further curbing the rate of suicide in our society.