Youth suicide in Jaffna high among displaced
[TamilNet, Thursday, 10 April 2003, 15:09 GMT]
Suicide among young persons in Jaffna is relatively higher in areas where many refugees live, according to court records in the northern peninsula. Twelve in the Jaffna division, ten in the Sandilipay-Masiyapiddy area and thirteen in the Chunnakam –Uduvil area committed suicide in 2001-2002. All were young persons under 20.
A social worker in Jaffna attributed the phenomenon to disruptions in families caused by displacement and refugee camp environments, poverty, dowry and lack of counselling facilities for young persons in welfare centres.
Jaffna hospital sources said there was an equally large number of attempted suicides among young persons. But they said no area specific statistics were available.
A sociologist working as a consultant to an international NGO in Jaffna said the problem can also be traced to the erosion of the traditional family and local kinship networks which acted as a psychological fall back option for troubled young persons. “In Jaffna these networks have been disrupted not only by war but due to extensive migration to the West”, he added.
The lowest suicide rate among young persons in Jaffna was in Nelliyadi (1), Velanai (1) Araly (2), Kayts (2), Kopay (3), Aanaikoddai (3), Inuvil (3) and Vaddukkoddai (3).
Eleven persons took their lives in the Chulipuram area during 2001-2002.
“Many tend to think of refugees and displacement only in terms of physical resettlement. There is tremendous psycho-social disorder, particularly among long resident refugee populations in Jaffna. We have very little resources to deal with the problem”, the social worker said.
The social worker cited a recent case of suicide by a girl in the Sabapathy Refugee Camp in Maruthanamadam (in the Chunnakam Uduvil area).
The family was displaced from Oorani in the Kankesanthurai Division. The girl’s father, the family’s sole bread winner, lost his livelihood as a fisherman after the displacement.
Later in the refugee camp, he eked out a living by collecting firewood and selling it in the Chunnakam market. This was too was disrupted when he lost a limb in a land mine explosion while looking for firewood.
The girl’s mother then became the family’s sole breadwinner by selling pea nuts. During this time, the girl married when she was 19 to a boy in the camp who had fallen in love with her. The family could not give anything as dowry because of the misfortunes that had befallen. The husband had allegedly ill treated and abused the girl demanding a dowry and later had forced her to go back to her parents. The girl committed suicide by setting herself on fire.