Meeting of experts for finalization of the WHO-South East Asia Regional Strategy on prevention of suicide
WHO SEARO, New Delhi India 21 – 22nd April 2016
The above meeting was convened by the WHO SEARO office in New Delhi. Experts from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand attended the meeting. Representatives from the country offices of the WHO also attended. Among them was Prof. Athula Sumathipala, Professor of Psychiatry and the Director, Internationalisation, at the Research Institute for Primary Care & Health Sciences, Keele University and also a Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist, South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. He is also an Emeritus Professor of Global Mental Health, Kings College London and the Hon Director of the Institute for Research and Development in Sri Lanka.
This meeting was a significant positive step in the right direction for preventing suicides in South Asia, which consists of 11 countries and 26% of the global population. South Asian countries contributes to 40% of global suicides and 8 counties contributes for highest number of suicide at country and global level. In South East Asia female suicide rate is high compared to other parts of the world.
Sri Lanka once had the highest suicidal rate in the whole world; close to 50 completed suicides/100000 population per year. But since 1997 it has gone down due to many significant steps taken by the Sri Lankan government with its highest political will.
Sri Lankan delegation comprised of Dr. Neil Fernando (Psychiatrist), Senior Lecturer at the Kothalawela Defence University, Dr. DeSilva (Public Health Specialist, Director Mental Health Ministry of Health), Dr. Sanjiwa Ranaweera (Public Health Specialist), Dr. Sudath Samaraweera (Public Health Specialist, Ministry of Health and Ex-Co member at the Institute for Research and Development in Sri Lanka).
Dr. Samaraweera has a MD from Sri Lanka in which he carried out a psychological autopsy study and a PhD from Kings College London for which he tested a CBT outreach approach for people with high risk for suicide. Prof. Sumathipala was a co supervisor for both these studies. Both of them have contributed to the limited literature on suicide in Sri Lanka.
Dr. Nihal Abeysinghe, Regional Adviser, Vaccine Preventable Diseases, WHO/SEARO, New Delhi also participated.
Dr. Nazneen Anwar, Regional Adviser, Mental Health, WHO Regional Office for South- East Asia, took the leadership in this work.