Friday, July 3, 2009

Suicides and attempted ones go unreported - a serious issue


Three of my staff had to leave at a moments notice one morning, as the brother of two and the cousin of one had committed suicide by taking poison, in the form of an easily available farm pesticide. He was 24 with a young wife and a child of a little over a year. He seems to be someone who was easily drawn to fights, and also abused alcohol. He had some disagreement with his wife and moved in temporarily with his parents leaving the wife at home in her village. Ironically, I last met the dead person, at the funeral of his maternal uncle, who had also died of suicide, consuming Kurator a crystal that is used to kill harmful subterranean pests that attack the roots of banana shoots and come up the trunk to kill the plant. This older person not married was an alcoholic.

Another boy of 15 committed suicide in the same village only a month ago by ingesting Gramoxone a weed killer. He, a friend of my staff, who again went for that funeral (going for a funeral of this nature means they are away for at least 7 days, as they wait on for the 7 day almsgiving) was the eldest of 5 boys who had to support his family by either mining sand from the river, an illegal activity or by cutting clay bricks prior to firing. He had apparently had a fight with his mother and done the deed, a mother who was rarely there for him, and his father absent out of town. At that tender age he commonly consumed alcohol, and this may have been a contributory factor in the seemingly senseless death, in a need for attention. I dread to think how the younger siblings are now coping with little care from parents.

When I learned about this and mentioned this to a neighbor in Ratmale, I was told that another girl about 18 had taken Kurator and was in a bad way in hospital. She is in a photo in one of my blogs, and so this tale of this problem seems to continue uncontrolled. I cannot put my finger into the causes, but just to say that we are a race of very passionate people who are easily roused, and also very brittle under criticism, and are easily upset for the slightest thing. A fight with the spouse of parent, an unhappy love affair or some short term financial crisis all seem to lead to this sort of event. Consumption of alcohol may also make the person more prone to depression exacerbating an already fragile situation.

The rate of suicide in Sri Lanka is one of the highest in the world. I am at loss to know how we can identify the signs, and take preventative measures. My work on the farm has been put on hold waiting for the week to be up for them to return. No doubt their explanation of the causes will come to light upon their arrival. A 52 year grandmother of 6 and mother of 7 has lost her2nd son. Her eldest and youngest work at my farm.

10 comments:

Sigma said...

Its ironic indeed that in a county where the predominate religion is one of tolerance, we are so intolerant, of others as much as ourselves - in fact, the taking of a life done so casually

Thusitha said...

"...we are a race of very passionate people who are easily roused, and also very brittle under criticism, and are easily upset for the slightest thing." You hit the nail on the head Ranjit. This seems to be an ethno-cultural state of mind for all us Sri Lankans irrespective of ethnicity. It is high time our social, political and religious leaders spoke about it.

Anonymous said...

This is the result of the general hopelessness of youger generation in rural areas then anthing. Three is nothing to guide them to correct path after leving school. So they tend to start family without having means to support it

Rajaratarala said...

Actually the victim's wife had Rs1M in savings from work overseas, and he also had a home, and a job that he gave up, so it was not financial, other factors, with alcohol addiction that was contributory. The wife's family has means.

Susan said...

Thanks for highlighting this problem which gets talked about all the time (heard it last week as well during the BizPact symposium which is focused on bringing investment to the regions for rural empowerment)but as usual, there is too little being done to address the issue. So many social issues trouble this nation post-war as well. We need to engage our leaders, the social and religious networks to address this very sad situation.

Anonymous said...

Another consideration to be taken into account is the link between regular exposure to certain pesticides which cause depression in people and suicide.....

Jack Point said...

It is a combination of factors:

1. Easy availability of poisons (weedkiller etc) and the well-known Karenu seeds. Same reason why gun crime is high in the USA-easy availability of guns.
2. A cultural acceptance of suicide. In Christianity suicide is a sin, it is not so in Eastern religions.
3. A curious, hypocritical Victorian morality (which is claimed to be traditional) which conflicts with a lusty sexual promiscuity that flourishes in practice -undercover. When teenagers are caught out, suicide is a frequent option.

chamira said...

I think this is more to do with availability rather than anything else. As you have pointed out you other blog posts much of the island live in rural areas which gives them easier access to weedkillers and other poisons. The proffession with the highest rate of suicide in the UK are veternary surgeons, and i think access to poisons plays a key issue there. I do agree that other cultural, political and social factors push people in to considering suicide and the weedkillers are just a means to an end, I'm sure people determined to kill themselves would find another means. However, if they were not so readily available, may be the number of deaths from what could be thought of as a spur of the moment attempt could be reduced.
I don't know of the regulations regarding these things, but surely such chemicals should only be sold if there is a gurantee that they are also stored correctly?

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