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Commemorating World Suicide Prevention Day by working together

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Working together to prevent suicide: Sumithrayo panellists on World Suicide Prevention Day, from left – Dr. Olivia Corazon Nieveras (WHO representative), DIG Ajith Rohana 

Dr. Neil Fernando, Niroja Jayawardane, Nivendra Uduman and Prasad Gunawardene 

World Suicide Prevention Day was marked on 10 September across the globe and provided a unique opportunity to collectively shine a light on suicide prevention. Suicide prevention remains a universal challenge. Every year, suicide is among the top 20 leading causes of death globally for people of all ages. 

Harnessing this momentum is critical to ensure meaningful solutions are put in place to drive suicide rates down. Everyone has a role to play in preventing suicide. Choices we make today can help prevent suicide. 

In 1995, it was reported the country has the highest rates in the world. However, due to timely interventions by stakeholders such as Sumithrayo, the country has made major advances in reducing its suicide rate from the peak in the mid-1990s of 45 per 100,000 people to incidence of 16/100,000 in 2018.

Today in Sri Lanka, an average of eight to 10 persons die by suicide every single day of the year. And for each person who dies by suicide many others fail in their attempt to end their life. Unfortunately data on attempted suicides are not available in Sri Lanka.

This year Sumithrayo commemorated World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September with a program from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Maheweli Centre galvanising everyone to work together to prevent and reduce the number of suicides. The keynote address was by Chief Guest Dr. Razia Pendse, WHO Representative to Sri Lanka

A thought-provoking panel discussion took place with the participation of eminent personalities such as Dr. Razia Pendse, Dr. Neil Fernando, Consultant Psychiatrist, Nivendra Uduman, Counseling Psychologist and Psychotherapist, Ajith Rohana, DIG/Legal, Niroja Jayawardane, Project Manager, Hithawathi, L.K. Domain Registry, Prasad Gunawardene, Senior Staff Member Mel Medura, Drug Demand Reduction Program.

The panellists addressed the audience on how all sectors of the community – the public, charitable organisations, communities, researchers, clinicians, practitioners, politicians and policy makers, volunteers, those bereaved by suicide, other interested groups and individuals – can join together to focus public attention on the needs of people at risk of suicide, suicide attempt survivors and people bereaved by suicide.

They also promoted understanding about suicide and highlight effective prevention activities and impress upon the audience on the need to take a minute to reach out to someone in the community – a family member, friend, colleague or even a stranger working to change the course of another’s life.

Since 1974, Sumithrayo has been providing emotional support to people in crisis. Over 150 distressed persons contact the office each week. They either visit, write, telephone or e-mail, and find comfort in talking about their worries, fears and anxieties.

Kind and caring volunteers give of their time, patience and expertise to provide consolation to those distressed. The Centre is open 365 days of the year from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and anyone may walk in or telephone during these hours to seek assistance.  Barriers such as class, race, and religion, political or sexual leanings are non-existent.  Every caller will be provided with emotional support in an atmosphere of total confidentiality. The service provided is completely free.

Devoted to responding to people in crisis and preventing suicide, focusing on empathetic active listening and non-judgmental responses, Sumithrayo volunteers endeavour to take every person in crisis seriously. The goal of befriending is to empower the caller to make life-enhancing choices. 

Sumithrayo provides confidential emotional support and is a free service, open 365 days – from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. (including holidays). Call: 2692909, 2683555, 2696666. Visit: 60B Horton Place Colombo 7. Email: sumithra@sumithrayo.org   


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