Harnessing power of music to save lives

Friday, 21 September 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Popular singer Ashanthi to launch new music video to tackle 

Sri Lanka’s alarming suicide rate in partnership with Mobitel and British Council

Listed as the country with the fourth-highest suicide rate in the world, Sri Lanka is currently grappling with the most devastating national health crisis that it has ever faced. In an effort to spread awareness and create impactful conversations around the issue, popular artiste Ashanthi de Alwis is set to release her latest music video – an eye-opening portrayal of the shattering truths, causes and effects of suicide, followed by a discussion with counselling psychologist Nivendra Uduman and stories of survivors. Coinciding with World Suicide Prevention Day, the official launch and screening of the music video will take place on 7 September from 5.30 p.m. onwards at the National Film Corporation Hall. The project is carried out in partnership with Mobitel and the British Council. The music video, titled ‘Hitha Danne Mithuranne’, features collaborations with popular singer and rapper Randhir and Drill team. The song is written by Sampath Fernandopulle and composed by Ken Lappen, while the music video is produced by Chamil Pathirana of Thaala Roopa Revolution. 

With celebrities, key press and media representatives as well as social media influencers invited to attend, the event will provide a much-needed platform that will shine a light on suicide prevention. Key issues faced by the youth in Sri Lanka will be discussed, such as depression, bullying, conflicts with sexual identity, battling with financial hardships and difficulty dealing with emotions and acceptance, which are all factors that can eventually lead to suicide if not addressed with care. The event will also guide influencers on the importance of dealing with the subject of suicide openly with their fans, inspiring them to be careful of their actions and become more aware of those who may need intervention. The event will also highlight the various support groups and hotlines that have been set up to aid individuals who are in need of help. 

Commenting on her music video and its importance, Ashanthi said: “The subject of suicide is something which many of us shy away from. Suicide rates in Sri Lanka are alarmingly high, with the rate of attempted suicide amongst women being the highest. We cannot afford to keep the door shut on something we need to address so crucially for the sake of our youth population. Music has always been one of the most powerful cultural influencers of all time. A positive message spread through music can transcend across every boundary of background, religion, age, ethnicity and sexual orientation, to reach and truly resonate with people from all walks of life. This video touches on the many difficulties and struggles that may lead to or trigger a suicide, and it shows you how to help those who are in a dangerous place and are struggling with personal problems. If you are someone who feels that hope is lost, I hope that this video will give you the strength to reach out for help and support. I also hope that it will inspire more people to open up about this subject, discuss it without fear and offer a helping hand to those who need it most. Through this song, we hope to shatter the silence, stigma and lack of awareness that surrounds the subject of suicide in Sri Lanka. We hope to inspire and empower people to act and find a voice, and we hope to create conversations and interventions that will ultimately save lives. I am grateful to Mobitel and the British Council for stepping forward to partner with this vitally important cause.”

Partnering with the project, the British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities, working with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. The British Council’s Voices and Choices Grant Scheme was launched to build on the buzz that was created from Southbank Centre’s Women of the World Festival held in Colombo last December. Eight projects, including Ashanthi’s music video, were selected to be implemented in 2018/19, under the British Council’s patronage. 

Mobitel will serve as the official mobile telecommunications platform for the campaign, which will comprise of three phases. With the release of this music video, Ashanthi and Randhir have been appointed as the brand ambassadors for this initiative. The first phase of the campaign conceptualised by Mobitel will be focused on creating awareness and act as a catalyst for meaningful conversations around the topic. The second phase will explore how people can help a friend suffering from depression, and the third and final phase will feature a series of informative sessions where Ashanthi and Randhir will delve into the statistics, specifics and hidden truths and trends about suicide with counselling psychologist Nivendra Uduman.

Mobitel will leverage on its robust network, large customer base and extensive geographic reach to carry out all three of the phases whilst raising funds for the cause via mTune downloads of the song. The company will also contribute significantly towards the campaign, resulting in a combined drive that will improve the quality of call centres and other infrastructure in place for the initiative. 

Mobitel engages closely with the youth of the country across various platforms and through its wide portfolio of products and services, which makes it an ideal partner for an event of this nature. By supporting such a national cause, Mobitel is living up to its ‘We Care. Always.’ promise. 

The following hotline numbers are dedicated towards providing support and assistance to those who need urgent intervention and assistance. 

Sumithrayo- 011 2696 666 / 011 2692 909

CCCline - 1333 

Shanthi Maargam- 071 7639 898 

Suicide in Sri Lanka is rampant for multiple reasons and affects people regardless of their status or background.  From a young age, many children are expected to perform exceptionally well in their academic studies and the pressure to get straight A’s and perform well at exams often leaves our youth feeling overwhelmed. Many people also feel pressurised by the stereotypical norms of society to act and live a certain way, and the expectations that are placed upon them by their parents, spouses, friends and relatives can feel unbearably restricting. Culturally, women tend to not talk about their problems and often learn to endure them in silence, making them feel completely isolated. 

Harassment is also becoming a serious issue in Sri Lanka, with many young people – girls and women in particular – having to face this constantly in their daily lives. All of these issues can have a detrimental effect on a person’s wellbeing, and can lead to feelings of panic and depression, which is the root cause that leads to suicide. 

Ashanthi de Alwis is a Sri Lankan singer, rapper and songwriter. She is the only female Sri Lankan artiste to have signed with international record labels, such as Sony Music and Universal Music. Ashanthi released her debut solo album ‘Sandawathuren’ in 2006, and ‘Daas Panawa’ in 2011, which carry notable popular local hits. With her distinct style of ethnic hip-hop, Ashanthi has gone onto garner international fame and recognition across Europe, North America, Australasia and Asia, picking up countless fans along the way. Ashanthi has won several international and local awards for her contribution to music, including Best Pop Act (Gold) at Bite My Music Global Awards, TOYP Award (Ten Outstanding Young Persons) in 2012, and the Zonta Woman of Achievement Award in 2014. To cater to the international market, Ashanthi launched her first English album ‘Rock the World’ in 2013, featuring lead single ‘Let’s Give Peace a Chance’. Having explored pressing themes in her previously released music and albums, such as ‘world peace’ and cervical cancer prevention in her most recent music video ‘Handawe’, Ashanthi is now set to spread awareness and create conversations around the subject of suicide – a grievous global pandemic affecting all of humankind. 

Statistics about 

Suicide in Sri Lanka 

According to World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics, Sri Lanka has a suicide mortality rate (SMR) of 35.3 (per 100,000 people) and this is the highest SMR in the entire Southeast Asia region. In 1996 and 1997, Sri Lanka topped the list of countries with the highest SMR in the whole world. While the suicide rate of men is higher than women, the attempted suicide rate of women is even higher.