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.