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Organizations working towards the prevention of suicides highlighted that there was a rise in suicides among senior citizens above the age of 60 years.

Sri Lanka Sumithrayo which has 10 centres island-wide with trained volunteers helping prevent suicides, citing statistics obtained from the Department of Police, pointed out that during 2016, 3,050 persons had committed suicide. The highest number of suicides was reported from Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura and Ratnapura.

According to the World Health Organization’s latest report pertaining to the number of suicides worldwide, Sri Lanka is ranked at the fourth place, and is therefore among the countries with the highest suicide rates.

Chairperson of Sumithrayo, Kumudini De Silva said that males were four times more likely to commit suicide than females. She added that Sumithrayo mainly dealt with those suffering from mental illnesses such as depression including normal depression, serious depressive illnesses such as severe depression, and anyone experiencing any emotional crises such as being distressed and feeling in despair, with the view of preventing suicides.

She explained that when one feels depressed, one did not feel like doing anything, one lacked the energy, one tended to see everything negatively, one lacked efficiency or would not do one’s best, and in such situation would face stigma in the form of friends not taking the condition seriously and instead laughing it off, and may consider one a weakling.

De Silva noted that senior citizens felt alone, isolated, worthless and in certain cases had no one to look after them and care for them.
“A lot of people experience normal depression. Sometimes it lasts for less than a week, and at other times, if it is continuing for more than a week where a person is feeling blue or down but does not result in the disturbance one’s day to day life, such persons require medical support. Yet some cannot get out of the depression,” she said.

“We befriend the mentally ill who are not accepted anywhere. They can talk to us, we listen and empower. We support them throughout their episodes and ordeal, direct them to professionals like doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists and encourage them to take their prescribed medication and follow their advice. We give them respect and provide them with care. The entire society must be made aware. During the dengue crisis, it would have claimed a maximum of 500 lives, whereas this disease claimed over 3,000, just last year. This is a very serious and complex issue which people do not talk about,” she emphasized.