x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UAE initiative aims to cut suicide rate among blue-collar workers

The Mission Zero Suicide campaign in the UAE aims to reduce suicide rates among blue-collar workers by offering them financial advice.

DUBAI // Thousands of blue-collar workers are receiving advice on money management as part of a push to reduce suicide rates.

Workers are also being urged to be honest with their families about their finances.

The campaign, Mission Zero Suicide, targets expatriate workers in about 4,800 labour camps and nearly 400 companies.

It urges people to avoid the "credit card trap" and seek counselling for personal issues, if necessary.

"People take this extreme step because of domestic and economic compulsions," Sudhir Shetty, chief operating officer of UAE Exchange, said yesterday. "The expectation of families from workers are very high and this has resulted in them borrowing. They don't convey the realities back home."

So far this year, 91 Indians - an average of two a week - have killed themselves in the Emirates, according to the Indian Embassy.

Last year, 97 people, mostly from Kerala state, took their own lives.

As one of the largest expatriate communities in the UAE, the suicide rate among Indians is thought to be the highest in the country.

In 2008, Indian missions registered 176 suicides - the most on record. Officials attributed the deaths to job losses brought on by the global economic downturn. Financial, psychological and personal problems have been blamed.

"We are asking people to tell the truth to their families about how much their income is and how much they can afford to send," Mr Shetty said.

"Though a foreign land promises prosperity for back home, it also offers loneliness and unnecessary indulgences for an expatriate, who takes the path to depression, ultimately taking the extreme step."

Mr Shetty said Mission Zero Suicide was initiated by UAE Exchange six months ago but was an "ongoing" initiative.

It will also reach out to white-collar workers through their companies. Plans are afoot to expand the mission to other Gulf countries, he said.

pkannan@thenational.ae