National Council for Mental Health
National Council for Mental Health "The realization of optimum mental health in Sri Lanka through research, training, awareness raising and care"
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Home > Psychiatry & Mental Health > Suicide in Sri Lanka

After decades of having one of the highest suicide rates in the world, Sri Lanka now has a declining trend, but health professionals are concerned about the growing numbers who end their lives with poison.

Police records show a plunge in the number of suicides over the past few years, from a peak of 8,449 in 1995 to 4,504 in 2006 and 4,225 in 2007.

Sri Lanka in 2007 had a rate of about 21 suicides per 100,000 people. Although the rate has dropped since 1995, when it was a peak figure of 46.6 suicides per 100,000 people, the figure still remains high, as anything over 15 suicides per 100,000 is considered excessive.

Police figures also reveal that of the deaths recorded as suicides in 2006, more than half were due to poison, with some 2,268 men and 519 women consuming toxic substances. 

State hospitals have seen a 300 percent increase in the number of patients being admitted with symptoms of poisoning in the last 20 years.

The seeds of the yellow oleander tree, the yam of the gloriosa superba plant, agricultural chemicals and over-the-counter drugs were some of the poisons ingested by the 93,773 people treated in government hospitals in 2006, according to the National Poisons Information Centre (NPIC).

The actual figure is much higher, since information about hospital admissions in the North and East and private hospital admissions have not been taken into account.

It is disturbing that an increasing number of people, most between 19 and 30, are going to hospital to be treated for intentional or inadvertent poisoning. Countless cases also go unreported, according to health experts.

Sri Lanka's recent decreasing suicide trend could be the result of national strategies instigated in the mid-1990s, which include:

De-criminalising of suicide, which eliminated the stigma attached to the psychological condition

Restricting access to poisonous chemicals

Assigning more medical officers with mental health training to provincial hospitals to provide psychiatric support.

 
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NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR MENTAL HEALTH
Resource Centre - Colombo 08
No. 96/20, Kitulwatta Road,
Colombo - 08.
Sri Lanka
Tel +94 112 685 960 / +94 114 339 606-7
Fax +94 112 685 950
Email council@ncmh.lk
 
NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR MENTAL HEALTH
Gorakana - Residential Facility
No. 115/2, Galkanuwa Rd.
Gorakana, Panadura.
Sri Lanka
Tel +94 383 398 317 / +94 384 927 506 / +94 382 297 702
Fax +94 382 287 203
Email council@ncmh.lk
         
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