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Suicide never a solution



Creating Hope Through Action’ is the triennial theme for the years 2021- 23 for the World Suicide Prevention Day observed every year, on 10 September. This is to draw societal attention to the important issue. A few days back, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), released data for 2021, and reported 1,64,033 suicides in India, with a rate of 12 per 1,00,000 population, an increase by about seven per cent, compared to 2020.

By Saraswathi Tenagi and Vijaykumar Harbishettar

 ‘Creating Hope Through Action’ is the triennial theme for the years 2021- 23 for the World Suicide Prevention Day observed every year, on 10 September. This is to draw societal attention to the important issue. A few days back, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), released data for 2021, and reported 1,64,033 suicides in India, with a rate of 12 per 1,00,000 population, an increase by about seven percent compared to 2020.

These figures miss out those unnatural deaths which are still under investigation, or inconclusive. The NCRB report finds that five states put together – namely Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, and Karnataka – accounted cent of the suicides in India. On the other hand, the most populous Uttar Pradesh reported a lower percentage. Furthermore, analysis by the NCRB mentions causes such as family problems/ personal issues, illness, love affairs, abuse, violence, isolation, and alcohol/drug use.

The age group 18- 45 is the most vulnerable as around 66 per cent of suicides are reported in this age range. Let us try and understand the impact of suicides on those kith and kin who are left behind. Any kind of death affects families resulting in a process called grief. It takes at least a year before it starts to subside. But in case of death by suicide, the grief process becomes more complex, as it is traumatic and violent. Talking about suicide, especially the mode of death, can cause lot of distress in anyone, including the person reporting it. The immediate family members and close friends may develop guilt, start to question themselves with many ‘what ifs’ and whether they could have saved the person. Close ones may also have to face police investigation and media scrutiny. There is a need to support suicide survivors; especially some family members such as mother, father, sister and even spouse may get affected deeply and can show signs of mental breakdown. Trauma can haunt some mothers or spouses for many years.

The healthcare system and community need to support them as mass/family suicides are slowly on the rise. The theme ‘Creating hope through action’ is a reminder that there is an alternative to ending life by suicide and the objective is to inspire and instil confidence.

Through their actions, no matter how big or small, everyone can create hope for those who are struggling. Some people thinking of suicide have said they wish someone had at least asked them once. Warning bells should ring if you see a recent change in behaviour – a gloomy appearance, mood swings, frequent expression of death or dying, talking about going far away, expressing hopelessness, unusual fear, not making eye contact, not being open, appearing depressed, not engaging, unable to resolve a problem and experiencing chronic stress.

Along with trying to engage the person, leaving work aside, it is recommended that one should ask directly if she or he is having suicidal thoughts or plans, or if the person is thinking about dying. Many people have the notion that by enquiring directly about suicide, they could increase the risk by instilling the idea into the person’s mind. But it is the other way around. Asking directly about suicide gives a good chance to save them. The person may actually feel better after this so-called emotional ventilation.

If still in crisis, it is best to take them to the nearest Emergency room or if during the day to a psychiatrist. Suicidal thoughts are complex and vary across individuals. Sometimes it can be impulsive. However, many actions are planned, with elaborate preparations made before the final act including the date and mode of death. Some may even say their goodbyes indirectly.

These should be seen as hints. Many would have visited their doctors, friends or even been hospitalised before the act. For every suicide reported, there are at least 25 suicide attempts. Attempts increase risk of suicide. Many suicide attempts may go unrecorded, and some may not get assessed, though many hospitals insist on the person seeing a psychiatrist.

The individual may not have disclosed previous attempts, leaving many around unaware. Individuals are different, so the same approach may not work for all. Persons with suicidal thoughts may feel trapped, and that they have no other option.

There is a quote by Magic Johnson, ‘all the kids need is just a little help, a little hope and somebody (who) believes in them’. Many may not need advice, but just need some time where they can be heard without being judged. Such small talk can create a sense of connectedness and thus some hope. It can actually save lives. While many can cope with the adversities in life, a few are vulnerable.

There are many factors like family problems, personality style, environmental factors, traumatic childhood events, and mental health conditions that contribute to the vulnerability. At the same time, protective factors like support from family and friends, problem-solving skills, decision-making skills, rational and critical thinking and resilience would help the person to overcome suicidal thoughts. Suicide is a complex interaction between these triggering factors, vulnerabilities and protective factors. Focus should be on enhancing the protective factors and minimising the vulnerability factors. Stigma or a belief that they can get discriminated against, and being labelled as a weak-minded person may act as a barrier to seeking help.

Listening to those sharing their experience of having overcome the problems, and how they changed their approach is one way to educate the public. These narratives can help others understand what it means to feel suicidal and how they can help themselves as well as others. One of the most successful Olympic swimmers ever has spoken about having had suicidal thoughts. In a media interview, famous English cricketer Jonny Bairstow has spoken out about his late father, again a well-known cricketer, who died by suicide, and how he was affected by his mum’s cancer. He has talked about the challenges he faced, while trying to focus on playing in India and the Ashes series.

Impact of his dad’s death by suicide and building his career in the cricket community, where many knew his dad, and eventually managing to carry on his dad’s legacy, have lessons to offer to the many families going through the loss of loved ones through suicide. A few Indian cricketers also have expressed in the media that they had these thoughts intruding their minds. It was painful to learn of the death of a successful entrepreneur, whose business slogan itself was ‘a lot can happen over coffee’ and made one wonder if he had followed the slogan. The message here is that there are many options to be tried before concluding that no help is available.

Depression can make someone feel lonely, hopeless, and so make it hard to trust anyone. But this illness is treatable. Anyone feeling blue, doomed, hopeless or worthless, should take a step back and examine ambitions and goals, and look at changing career paths if required. Make changes to the lifestyle. Nurture old hobbies or cultivate new ones that give pleasure. Try learning new skills. Spend time with friends and family. If work is causing stress, discuss this with colleagues, and ask for a break. Get involved in social and community activities, including volunteering.

Try spending time with nature, visit places and spend time in a calm environment. Spirituality and meditation, including practising mindfulness techniques, are to be tried. Take out time to exercise and meet friends in the park or at the jogging track. One must try and attend family functions, marriages and events to meet friends, even when not feeling like it. Mass media, playwrights and authors must depict suicide with responsibility.

There was a novel called ‘Sorrows of Young Werther’ written in the 18th century that led to many copycat suicides, as it was shown that Werther did not have a way out other than suicide. On the other hand, in an opera called “The Magic Flute”, a suicidal character named Papageno is reminded by some boys of alternative ways to resolve the problem. Such is the influence of the media on people who are in crisis.

If a person searches for ‘ways to commit suicide’ on search engines, the first few hits will now show ‘crisis helpline’ or ‘help is available’. Responsible reporting by the media is important and the World Health Organisation have issued guidelines on dos and don’ts. Ultimately the decision to choose life or death rests with the individual.

The message to anyone who might be thinking of ending life is to hold on and give your friends and family a fair chance. The person must meet and discuss problems with a nearby psychiatrist. They may try to remove your pain or support you and so it is important to work with them. Suicide is not at a solution to any problem.

(The Statesman/ANN)

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Credibility in governance through elections and not security forces



Ranil Wickremesinghe

By Jehan Perera

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s warning that he is prepared to declare a state of national emergency and use the military to suppress any public protests for change of government would reflect the pressures he is under. The manner in which he has used the security forces to deal with the protest movement has been unexpected. His words and deeds are contradictory to what he has previously stood for as a five-time former prime minister. This is especially true in the case of the ethnic and religious minorities who have consistently voted for him and his party at elections. They have felt safer and more secure under his governments which always sought to reduce the heavy hand of state oppression in which national security is given pride of place. He has always promised them much though he has been unable to deliver on much of what he promised.

Notwithstanding the unfortunate rhetoric and actions of the present time the belief still persists that President Wickremesinghe is the best of the available options. Recent pronouncements of the president have reignited hope that he will address the problems of the religious and ethnic minorities. He has stated that he does not want to leave this problem to the next generation. He has said that he wants to resolve this intractable national problem by the country’s 75th independence anniversary on February 4 next year. The hope that the president will make a fresh effort to resolve their problems has led the main Tamil party, the TNA, to desist from voting against the budget which passed with a relatively small majority. Their spokesperson, M A Sumanthiran said in Parliament that due to the president reaching out to them, stretching out his hand, they did not vote against the budget although they disagreed with it.

It is not only in words that the president has reached out to the ethnic and religious minorities. Reports from the north and east indicate that the Maveer (Heroes) Day commemorations this year took place without incident. During the past two years scores of people were arrested and a massive presence of security forces blocked the people from participating in public events. On this occasion the security forces did not get involved in any attempt to stop the commemorations. University students distributed sweets and even cut a birthday cake to celebrate slain LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s birthday. The analogy that the president drew to himself being seen as a Hitler who exterminated ethnic and religious minorities is misplaced. The release of those held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for engaging in similar acts in the past would further contribute to the reconciliation process.


In this context, the president’s use of militaristic rhetoric can only be understood in relation to the growing economic crisis that shows no sign of abating. The anticipated IMF bailout package is at risk of getting indefinitely delayed. It was initially anticipated to come in September then in November but now January is being targeted. Japan’s top brokerage and investment bank, Nomura Holdings Inc, has warned that seven countries – Egypt, Romania, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Czech Republic, Pakistan and Hungary – are now at a high risk of currency crises. Sri Lanka is in third place on the table of risk. The next devaluation of the rupee could see another spike in inflation that will make the cost of living even more unbearable to the masses of people.

The president is on record as having said that the economic crisis will get worse before it improves. Both anecdotal and statistical evidence indicates that it is indeed worsening. University teachers at the University of Sabaragamuwa reported that attendance in their classes was down by at least a quarter. Students who come from other parts of the country are unable to afford the cost of meals and so they stay at home. A study by the Institute of Policy Studies has shown that about four percent of primary, 20 percent of secondary and 26 percent of collegiate students had dropped out of school in the estate sector, which is the worst affected. The future costs to the country of a less well educated population is incalculable and inhumane.

As it is the situation is a dire one for large swathes of the population. Research from the University of Peradeniya has revealed that close to half of Sri Lanka’s population, 42 percent (up from 14 percent in 2019) are living under the poverty line. Professor of Economics Wasantha Athukorala has said there is a dramatic increase in the poverty level of over three-hold across the past three years. In 2019, nearly 3 million people lived below the poverty line, but that number has increased to 9.6 million in October 2022. In these adverse circumstances stability in a polity can be ensured either through legitimacy or through force. It would be tragic if the latter is the choice that is made.


President Wickremesinghe has been stressing the importance of political stability to achieve economic development. His recent statement that the security forces will be used to negate any unauthorised protest is a sign that the government expects the conditions of economic hardship to escalate. The general public who are experiencing extreme economic hardship are appalled at the manner in which those who committed acts of corruption and violence in the past are being overlooked because they belong to the ruling party and its cliques. The IMF has made anti-corruption a prerequisite to qualify for a bailout, calling for “Reducing corruption vulnerabilities through improving fiscal transparency and public financial management, introducing a stronger anti-corruption legal framework, and conducting an in-depth governance diagnostic, supported by IMF technical assistance.”

It is morally unacceptable even if politically pragmatic that the president is failing to take action against the wrongdoers because he needs their votes in parliament. As a start, the president needs to appoint a credible and independent national procurement committee to ensure that major economic contracts are undertaken without corruption. Second, the president needs to bite the bullet on elections. The country’s burning issues would be better accepted by the country and world at large if they are being dealt with by a statesman than by a dictator. Government that is based on the people’s consent constitutes the sum and substance of democracy. This consent is manifested through free and fair elections that are regularly held. Local government elections have been postponed for a year and are reaching their legal maximum in terms of postponement. These elections need to be held before March next year.

Elections will enable the people to express their views in a democratic manner to elect their representatives for the present. This would provide the government with guidance in terms of the decisions it is being called to take to revive the economy and place the burden in a manner that will be acceptable to the people. The provincial council elections have been postponed since 2018. Democratically elected provincial councils share in the burdens of governance. The devolution of power that took place under the 13th Amendment was meant to promote ethnic harmony in the country. The president who has taken the position that he is for a solution to the ethnic conflict should seriously consider conducting the provincial council elections together with the local government elections se their financial costs. By doing so he will also gain legitimacy as a democratic statesman and not a dictator.

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WEDNESDAY – Movie Review



The Addams Family is back with a new tale to tell! Originally created by Charles Addams as a comic strip published in The New Yorker, it offered readers a sarcastic take on the ‘typical nuclear family’ by substituting it with a more macabre bunch of strange and eerie individuals. Since then the titular family has been adapted on to the big screen many times, from live action movies to animated versions, the Addams Family has gained many fans throughout the years. Created by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, with Tim Burton working on four episodes of the eight-part series, Wednesday is a welcoming tale for young fans, but unfortunately fails to think outside the box and remains anchored to the floor with a messy storyline.

Dead-eyed Wednesday Addams (Jenna Ortega) is a stubborn, independent and intelligent teenager in this new series. Her penchant for attracting trouble wherever she goes alarms her parents, Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Gomez (Luis Guzmán). With an already strained relationship with her parents (specifically her mother), Wednesday is enrolled at Nevermore, an academy for outcasts like herself. Having attended the academy themselves, Morticia and Gomez are hopeful that their daughter will ‘fit right in’. Caught between trying to build her own identity and other teenage complexities, Wednesday soon finds herself in the middle of a twisted mystery.

This is the first time audiences are introduced to a teenage Wednesday, which allowed the creators to build a new world on their own terms, but while keeping true to the original nature of the character. The creators do a fair amount of world building by introducing other outcasts like the Fangs (vampires), Stoners (Gorgons), Scales (sirens) and Furs (werewolves), among others. Nevermore Academy itself is beautiful and comes with the classic package of creepy crypts, hidden rooms and secret societies. The series also offers a decent amount of gore, although they could have added more given Wednesday’s proclivity for gore-related activities. The series deals with classic young-adult tropes which includes teenage crushes, bullies, relationships and even prom, among other things. The series navigates through Wednesday’s journey of self-discovery, which is a new avenue for both the character and the fans. From understanding and displaying her emotions to discovering her identity and understanding her peers, the series takes a deep dive into heavy material.

Ortega’s performance as the titular character plays a major role in keeping audiences glued to the screen. This is also the first time viewers are shown a teenage Wednesday Addams, which works to Ortega’s benefit as she depicts more dimensions to the ghoulish, morose character many are associated with based on previous renditions. Her facial expressions and ability to deliver on seriously emotional moments strengthens her role as the lead. The rest of the Addams Family, even with limited screen time, lack the eccentricities their characters should have. Hopeless romantics Morticia and Gomez seem incompatible in this version and Uncle Fester is far less crazy than he ought to be. The only member worth mentioning is the Thing—a severed hand— who brought more character and spirit to the series acting alongside Ortega. With barely any room to develop a majority of the characters are prosaic and tedious, even though they remain vital to the plot.

Apart from Ortega, Gwendoline Christie and Emma Myers deserve honorable mentions for their roles as Nevermore’s head teacher, Larissa Weems and the peppy Enid Sinclair respectively. Enid quickly became a fan favorite as the character was the polar opposite to Wednesday. Her character is vital to Wednesday’s character development and their journey to find common ground as mismatched individuals is amusing.

Christina Ricci who played Wednesday in the 90s returns as ‘normie’ teacher, Miss Thornhill and unfortunately barely stands out and this in large part due to the messy storyline. The series is bogged down with numerous subplots and overlapping tropes and the characters with potential for growth are completely overlooked. With love triangles, bullies and killer monsters on the loose, the series self-destructs and the climax sinks into disappointment.

At the end of the day, Wednesday plays to the beat of the new generation and touches on new themes, which is welcoming seeing as the character should grow up at some point. While not everyone may relate to Wednesday’s teenage perils, it is interesting to witness her growth and her journey as an ‘outcast’ or ‘weirdo’. And while Wednesday doesn’t exactly offer a distinctly unique story, it gives audiences a small taste of what Jenna Ortega’s Wednesday is capable of. Creating a story around a well-established franchise is a difficult task, and in this case the creators fail to add value to their visions. If the series continues, the creators will have the opportunity to think further outside the box and push the limits to Wednesday’s character and give audiences a bone-chilling experience. Wednesday is currently streaming on Netflix.



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Stage set for… AWESOME FRIDAY



The past few weeks have been a very busy period for the new-look Mirage outfit…preparing themselves for their big night – Friday, December 2nd – when they would perform, on stage, for the very first time, as Donald Pieries (leader/vocals/drums), Benjy (bass), Niro Wattaladeniya (guitar), Viraj Cooray (guitar/vocals), Asangi Wickramasinghe (keyboard/vocals), along with their two frontline female vocalist, Sharon (Lulu) and Christine.

They have thoroughly immersed themselves in their practice sessions as they are very keen to surprise their fans, music lovers, and well-wishers, on opening night…at the Peacock, Berjaya Hotel, in Mount Lavinia.

Action starts at 8.00 pm and, thereafter, it will be five hours of great music, along with EFFEX DJs Widhara and Damien, interspersed with fun and excitement…for the whole family!

Yes, opening night is for the whole family, so you don’t need to keep some of your family members at home – kids, especially.

Working on their repertoire for Friday, bassist Benjy says “what we will dish out will be extra special, with lots of action on stage.”

It would be interesting to see Sharon (Lulu) doing her thing with Mirage, after her early days with the Gypsies, and, I’m told, a dynamic performance from Sharon is what is in store for all those who make it to the Peacock this Friday

Edward (Eddy) Joseph (centre) with Donald and Benjy

While the band was at one of their practice sessions, last week, they had a surprise visitor – Edward (Eddy) Joseph, a former member of the group Steelers, who is now based in Germany.

Eddy is here on a short visit and is scheduled to return to Germany, tomorrow (30).

He spent an hour with Mirage, at their practice session, and says he is disappointed that he would not be around for the group’s opening night.

However, there is a possibility of several well-known personalities, in the showbiz scene, turning up, on Friday night, to experience the sounds of the new-look Mirage, including Sohan Weerasinghe and Joey Lewis (from London).

Rajiv Sebastian, too, says he is keen to be a part of the fun-filled evening.

You could contact Benjy, on 0777356356, if you need to double check…their plans for AWESOME FRIDAY!

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