It’s an oft cited statistic that Sri Lanka has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. It’s not true, anymore. Suicides have decline dramatically from a peak in 1995 (47 per 100,000 people) to about 19 in 2009. The country that pioneered suicide bombing is no longer leading the world in any kind of suicide, which is a very good thing.
In 1995, however, that rate would have been one of the highest in the world. The stats are dubious, however. I got the main table from Sumithrayo, a suicide prevention organization. I, however, changed their overall population figures to match Google’s Public Data. That meant that I recalculated the suicide rate, but it worked out about the same.
They cited Sri Lanka Police as the source and, indeed, they have detailed data on suicides (listed as a crime) including how and why. I could only confirm Sumithrayo’s numbers up to 2005. A 2009 IRIN report also cites the same stuff.
The rub is that Wikipedia cites a suicide rate (number per 100,000 people) of 21.6 and the numbers I got say 40.04. Which is, like double. Wikipedia reference one PDF from the WHO, which seems provisional. I dunno, you decide.
Post 2005, the numbers are straight from the police, so you can assume they’re underreported but right. So the suicide rate has gone way down. It’s still high, but Sri Lanka isn’t the basket-case anecdotes might make it out to be. In the UK, Wiki’s 2008 data says the rate is 11.3 per 100,000 people. In South Korea, the rate is 31.2 (2010 data). So we’re, uh, better than before if still not good. That, in a nutshell, is Sri Lanka. Not as shitty as you might think, not as good as it should be.
But anyways, the trend line for suicides is straight down. That’s a very good thing. In the first half of 2010, 46% of the 2,023 reported suicides were by drinking insecticide or pesticide. This is really a terrible, burning, organ destroying, hopeless way to go.