Colombo, May 24 (NIA) – Sri Lanka had the world’s highest rate of suicides in 1995 but the number is reducing gradually although the number of attempts has not changed, Sumithrayo, a leading charity organisation dealing in prevention of suicide, said here Wednesday.
“This clearly indicates that there is still an acute national need to help those who need emotional support,” Sumithrayo said.
It added that since 1996 when the special Presidential Task Force set up the National Policy on suicide prevention, it is recognized 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. The fact that suicide is invariably the outcome of a combination of factors – environmental, psychological, sociological and biological is now accepted.
Sumithrayo, has been in the forefront of suicide prevention: befriending and empowering the lonely, depressed, despairing and suicidal with emotional support. This is a free and confidential service. The Colombo centre with the strength of almost 100 volunteers has over 8000 callers per year who seek befriending via face to face, telephone, by letter and email.
Sumithrayo seek to alleviate human misery, loneliness, despair and depression by listening to and befriending those who feel that they have no one else to turn to who would understand and accept them. The service is delivered by a group of volunteers. Volunteers are carefully selected and trained to befriend people who are emotionally distressed. Training gives them the skill of befriending. Volunteers are not Counselors but Befrienders. Befriending is the art of positive listening to troubled feelings and helping distressed persons to explore healthy options which can ultimately lead to empowerment and a positive approach to life’s issues, Sumithrayo said.
People of all ages seek befriending from Sumithrayo for concerns that include marital, family, domestic violence, sexual abuse and harassment, relationship issues, mental health, grief, loneliness and low self- esteem. Having being set up by the Samaritans – Sumithrayo practices their unique way of non- judgmental befriending. The key of which is active Listening.
The Caller unburdens and thereby ventilates while the volunteer listens and accepts the Caller unconditionally. The Caller is encouraged to explore and identify the feelings that have caused despair and distress. When a rapport is thus established and the Caller is more rational (with a better balance of head and heart), options are explored and discussed. The Caller is finally empowered to consider one or more of these options and seek relief from their present feelings. The goal of befriending is to empower the Caller to make life-enhancing choices. A Caller does not lose the freedom to make his own decisions, including the decision to take his own life, and is free to break contact at any time.
“Sumithrayo is where they will find empathy instead of sympathy, empowerment instead of advice, and a non-judgmental friend who will listen with the assurance of complete confidentiality. People who have been through such a crisis will confirm that it was huge relief to unburden their feelings and discovering options other than taking their lives.”
The organisation further noted that 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) is the trigger that causes unbearable pain coupled with the inability to cope any further and feelings of very low self-esteem. Thus, an attempt to end it all. Some of the problems that increase the risk of suicide are: Rejection in a relationship, Unbearable Grief, Heavy use/dependency on alcohol or other drugs, A disabling or terminal illness, History of earlier attempts or self-harming, Depression, Mental Illness, Poor Coping skills. The biology of the brain, genetics, psychological traits, and social forces can all contribute to such feelings.
Another less publicized reason is that, dealing with human sexuality (associated with the facts of life) in an unsupportive family, community or hostile school environment can also bring about such feelings. As would the feelings of worthlessness and guilt soon after (or long after) a person has been sexually abused.
The founder of “The Samaritans” Chad Vara was haunted by the following experience: Standing in at the funeral of a 14-year-old girl, he asked the undertaker why the girl was being buried in unconsecrated ground, and was told she had killed herself because she had mistaken menstruation for some sort of sexually transmitted disease.
Prospective volunteers do not need any special qualifications or experience to become a Sumithraya – just a willingness to listen in a caring, compassionate, nonjudgmental way. “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn life around” quoted the Chairperson of Sumithrayo.