Committing suicide has become a common occurrence worldwide. It is not something particular to any specific age group. Anyone from any age group tends to commit suicide for diversified reasons. Accordingly, the youth in most countries around the globe tend to take their own life when things get hard to manage. Suicide is common among the Sri Lankan young demography as well. Therefore, taking them into consideration is of utter importance as the youth determines the development of any country.
Common methods of suicide include acts like drinking insecticides, hanging, jumping into deep water bodies, jumping from heights, and using lethal firearms. According to a report published in a seminar by Dr. Neil Fernando, head of the National Institute of Mental Health, Sri Lanka, in September 2021, almost 4000 people die by committing suicide in Sri Lanka every year. The statistics further show that the majority of victims were aged 15 to 44.
Various factors cause the increase in the suicide rate in Sri Lanka. A major cause for this is the influence of social media. The contemporary generation has access to a large amount of content about suicide on social media, especially on YouTube and Facebook. Themes like drugs, suicide, and violence are common among the most popular Sinhala songs. Songs based on such themes are played almost everywhere, like in public transport, industrial workplaces, and even in roadside shops. This situation has resulted in people remembering and registering the songs in their memory, and that has ultimately normalized the suicidal mentality among them. Therefore, managing and implementing a proper system for publishing such content in Sri Lanka is crucial.
Moreover, factors like poor mental health, family issues, and workload pressure also cause teenagers to commit suicide. It was virally reported on social media on January 2023, that a teenage couple (a boy aged 20 years and a girl aged 17 years) committed suicide by hanging themselves in a hotel room in Tangalle, as they did not get the opportunity to marry due to a birth certificate issue. It is a clear incidence of teenagers committing suicide due to lack of understanding and immaturity.
However, there are actions that can be taken to minimize the suicide rate in Sri Lanka. Every citizen in the country should be made aware of taking care of and understanding the mentality of the youth. If anyone encounters someone suffering mentally, they should be well-counselled and directed to medication. Taking action to minimize substance use among youth is also important as it was reported that most male suicides were carried out after consuming alcohol.
Moreover, there are many institutions in Sri Lanka that provide psychological support to those who are in need. Sumithrayo, Institute of Mental Health, Psychology Life Centre, Damrivi Padanama, Heartwork, and Meta Mind International are a few of them. From these institutions, Sumithrayo is a legally recognized, non-political, and non-religious organization popular among the young demography in Sri Lanka. It specializes in offering emotional assistance to people who are at risk of suicide.
It is obvious from the above discussion that it is crucial to rethink the tactics used by the government in dealing with issues related to suicide in youth. The development of the country in the health sector can be expected if only issues of this sort are well-addressed.
Prathibha Rajasinghe
3rd year (BA(Hons)in Translation Studies
Department of Linguistics