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SL’s suicide rate down to 3,000 in 2019 from 8,000 — the highest in the world in 1995



By Steve A. Morrell

Sri Lanka’s suicide rate dipped to 3,000 in 2019 from an alarming 8,000 per annum in 1995, which was considered the highest in the world at the time, says Dr. Pushpa Ranasinghe, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

It was salutary that suicides in the country saw a gradual decline over the years since then (1995) to settle at 3,000 in 2019. Studies show that suicides are now prevalent more among older people than younger persons, she told a recent discussion initiated by Airtel on mental health in Sri Lanka.

Dr. Ranasinghe said the widespread use of mobile phones and texting for help were instrumental in reducing suicides among young persons. However, this was not of note among older people, both men and women.

Sri Lanka now occupies the 31st position in terms of recorded suicides, she said, adding that the prevalence of suicides among older people is extremely disappointing.

World-wide, the recorded number of suicides was around 800,000 annually, which meant there was a suicide case every 40 seconds, she elaborated.

The primary reason for the increase of suicides among older people was that families usually have no time for the elderly. Loneliness, family isolation, relegated to a corner of the house and not being spoken to, were all symptoms that lead to many such people taking their own lives, Dr. Ranasinghe further said.

Alcohol was also a contributory factor for suicides among older persons, who do not access or take recourse to counseling, thereby leading to despair, she noted.

Strangulation and hanging were the common methods among this group of people to take their own lives. Unlike the elderly, young people were aware of the alarming consequences and are more prone to seek counseling, which Dr. Ranasinghe said, was available on a 24-hour basis.

The NIMH and Sri Lanka Sumithrayo have trained personnel to handle counseling around the clock. The NIMH receives 12,000 calls per year seeking help and advise in any developing circumstance. Positive responses to those seeking advise helped to reduce suicides, she added.

Managing Director, Airtel, Asish Chandra, who addressed participants via an online video call, said 3,000 to 5,000 lives are lost each year due to suicides. It was gratifying to note that more people are now seeking counseling, which is available online as well. Counseling is handled by trained personnel involving doctors and nurses.

It also emerged at the panel discussion that incest among the estate population was also a cause for suicides.

Dr. Ranasinghe said the voice based hotline 1926 could also be used to seek counseling and advice.

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SL gets Rs 452 mn for saving ill-fated tanker: Rs. 3.4 bn asked for



By Ifham Nizam and Rathindra Kuruwita

The Marine Enviro-nment Protection Authority (MEPA) yesterday received Rs. 452 million from London for having saved MT New Diamond, a super oil tanker that caught fire in the Sri Lanka’s territorial waters last year.

MEPA General Manager, Dr. P. B. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Island that Rs. 442 million had come for the services rendered by the Sri Lanka Navy, MEPA and Rs. 10 million by way of a fine imposed on the Ship’s Captain.

However, Sri Lanka has to receive a much larger amount for the damage caused to the marine environment, Dr. Kumara said. Following the incident, Sri Lankan authorities filed charges against the Captain of the ill-fated vessel and made a claim for $2.4 million from the ship’s owners for the firefighting and pollution prevention efforts.

Twenty experts from the Universities of Moratuwa, Ruhuna and Sri Jayewardenepura submitted their recommendations as regards the damage to the environment, to the Attorney General. Based on the report, the Attorney General’s Department had asked for Rs. 3.4 billion (around USD 19 million) as compensation for environmental damage, the Coordinating Officer for the Attorney General, state counsel Nishara Jayaratne said.

Soon they would have discussions with the lawyers of the shipping agent concerned on compensation for environmental damage caused, she said.

Dr. Kumara, who is the former Head of the Department of Oceanography/Marine Geology of the Ruhuna University, said that the incident had caused deaths among marine species due to spillage of some toxic fuel from the vessel.

The MT New Diamond crude oil tanker was transporting 270,000 MT oil from the port of Meena Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when a fire broke out in its engine room as the vessel was passing the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on September 3, 2020.

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PSC on gender equality meets for the first time



State Minister, Fernandopulle flanked by two other PSC members

Special attention on microfinance

The Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to further gender equality, to investigate instances of discrimination against women and to present recommendations to Parliament, focused on microfinance loans that are currently affecting a large number of women in Sri Lanka, when they met for the first time in Parliament recently.

The meeting was chaired by the State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID-19 Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle.

It was also revealed that the Cabinet had approved the re-establishment of an institution to regulate Microfinance loans in Sri Lanka.

The MPs also discussed the role of the Select Committee. They decided that the primary role of the Committee should be to investigate women’s grievances and all forms of discrimination based on gender, including workplace violence.

Another task before this committee is to examine and review laws that can be used to enhance gender equality, encourage relevant ministries and authorities to formulate plans to further gender equality and to allocate financial resources.

The Committee will also try to encourage greater women’s representation in decision-making bodies at the national and provincial levels as well as in government, civil society and the private sector.

MPs Rohini Kaviratne, (Dr.) Harini Amarasuriya, M. Udayakumar, S. Sritharan, Rohana Bandara and the Secretary to the Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of the Parliament Kushani Rohanadheera were also present at the meeting.



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A/L Examination from October 04 to 30



The 2021 GCE Advanced Level examination would be held from October 4 to 30, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday addressing the media at his Ministry.

Minister Peiris said the examination was earlier scheduled to be held in August.

The Grade 5 scholarship examination would be held on October 03 and the 2021 GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) examination in the last week of January 2022, the Minister said.

“Usually, schools are open for academic activities for around 200 days a year. But in 2020, schools were open for about 150 days. It was around 130 days in the Western Province. We were not able to fill this gap with online classes due to lack of internet facilities in many parts of the country,” he said.

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