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Working together to prevent suicide on World Suicide Prevention Day

World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) is an awareness day observed on 10 September every year since 2003, to provide worldwide commitment and action to prevent suicides. The IASP (International Association for the Study of Pain) collaborates with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Federation for Mental Health to spread awareness around the world. The theme for this year is “Working Together to Prevent Suicide”. This is the third year that this theme is being used. It has been chosen because it highlights the most essential ingredient for effective global suicide prevention – collaboration. All of us have a role to play and together we can collectively address the challenges presented by suicidal behaviour in society today.

Genetic, psychological, social, and cultural factors combined with some experiences of trauma and loss results in suicide. It has been estimated that globally over 800,000 people die by suicide which means a suicide happens every 40 seconds and impacts millions of people. It has also been suggested that for every suicide there are 20 attempts that are not successful.

Suicidal ideation or suicidal thoughts, is thinking about, considering, or planning suicide. The range of suicidal ideation varies from fleeting thoughts to extensive thoughts to detailed planning. Most people who have suicidal thoughts do not go on to make suicide attempts, but suicidal thoughts are considered a risk factor. Suicide contagion is the exposure to suicide or suicidal behaviours within one’s family, one’s peer group, or through media reports of suicide and can result in an increase in suicide and suicidal behaviour.

Sri Lanka had a suicide rate of 6.9/100,000 in 1950 which dramatically increased to 47/100,000 by 1995 to clock the highest in the world. But suicide prevention strategies implemented on recommendations by the Presidential Task Force of 1997 succeeded in bringing the rate down to 24/100,000 in 2004, 18/100,000 in 2014, and 16/100,000 in 2019. These included decriminalising the act of suicide (1998), a Life Skills Programme introduced by the Ministry of Education (1998), and banning the use of extremely toxic pesticides. Unfortunately, no records of attempted suicides are available so it is very difficult to conclude whether suicidal ideation by the people of Sri Lanka has reduced since 1995. The lives of people who attempt self-harm are also being saved due to quicker transportation and better or improved healthcare available in hospitals.

On 10 September, join Sumithrayo and many others across the world playing their part in the prevention of suicide. Light a candle near a window at 8 p.m. on WSPD as a symbol of support for suicide prevention. For many it is a means of remembering a loved one. 

“Every day, we lose many lives to suicide, and many more are profoundly impacted by their deaths. We acknowledge all who experience the challenges of suicidal ideation, and those who have lost loved ones through suicide,” shared Sumithrayo.

The Sumithrayo Centre is open all 365 days from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. at 60B, Horton Place, Colombo 7. Sumithrayo can be contacted on 0112 692 909/0112 683 555/0112 696 666 or email: sumithra@sumithrayo.org.