x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Talks in Dubai aim to prevent suicides

A series of discussions at a school in Dubai will seek to discourage expatriates from taking their own lives.

DUBAI // The Indian social organisation Sevanam will tomorrow hold the first in a series of anti-suicide talks, less than two weeks after one of its leading officials took his own life.

While the talks were already being planned when Vasudevan Sugathan died, his death highlighted the need for such an initiative. Mr Sugathan, secretary of Sevanam's Sharjah branch, was found hanged at a construction site in Fujairah on May 6.

An X-ray technician in Sharjah, he was an active social worker. "He used to help people in many ways and was always there for people in distress," said Manohar Vathisseril, the media convener of Sevanam.

"Recently, a lot of incidents have taken place in the community. A lot of suicide attempts are taking place. If we save a person's life, it means we are saving an entire family."

Raising awareness on the issue has been at the top of the organisation's agenda for some time. "A month before, we had thought of organising this event," Mr Vathisseril said. "But after this incident, we thought we should do this sooner."

Financial planning, ways of seeking help and recognising disturbing behaviour patterns are among the topics covered by the sessions, which begin tomorrow.

Dr George Kaliaden, a psychologist at Nasser Clinic in Al Qusais, said depression, talking about suicide, changes in behaviour and preparing a will are some of the signs that a person might be contemplating suicide.

"The recent increase in cases can be attributed to the financial issues," he said. "The environment here does not provide adequate social security. When the income source is stopped, people have to pack up and go. It's like reaching a dead end."

Dr Kaliaden's clinic holds free psychological counselling on the third Saturday of every month.

He said it was important for the Indian and the UAE governments and social organisations to look at ways to reduce suicide numbers. Last year, about 100 Indians, mostly from Kerala, committed suicide in the UAE. So far this year, 28 cases have been reported in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.

Sevanam organisers hope the seminars will encourage more people to talk about their problems.

"If more people discuss their problems, the number of suicides will reduce," said MK Rajan, the group's president. "If they can come to us, we will try helping in whatever way."

Mr Rajan said group members could have tried to help Mr Vasudevan, if he had shared his problems.

The organisation plans to hold similar seminars soon in other emirates. Tomorrow's event takes place at the Gulf Model School in Al Qusais from 5pm.

pkannan@thenational.ae