Letter from theGulf An increase in suicide cases among expat Indians in the Gulf highlights the need for counselling centres there.
Vimala Vasan from ABU DHABI:
An alarming increase in suicide cases among expatriate Indians in the Gulf has highlighted the urgent need for counselling centres to extend services to troubled expats.
Voluntary organisations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are initiating steps to tackle this disturbing trend, with one of them setting up a counselling service. `Sandwanam’ is the title of the service facility set up by the Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust with the aim of assisting and reassuring people who are on the brink of taking the extreme step of ending their lives.
The trust has made arrangements with a psychiatrist and sociologist to provide counselling services to needy people. K.V. Shamsudheen, chairman of the trust, told The Hindu that the rise in suicide rate in the GCC over the past year is worrisome. “There were three suicide cases of Keralite expats in the UAE this month — one in Dubai and two in Sharjah. Over the past three months, 20 suicide cases were reported among Indians in the UAE. Majority of these were Keralites, while some were from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh,” he pointed out.
Last year, 84 Indians committed suicide in Dubai and in Northern Emirates, compared with 54 in 2002, 64 in 2003 and 69 in 2004, according to a local media report citing figures provided by Indian Consulate officials.
The Indian Consulate in Dubai has also called for trained psychologists to offer voluntary services for expats who need medical assistance. One significant factor driving some expats to suicide is financial woes, which of late have been compounded by an astronomical rise in cost of living in the UAE. Expats who come here with a lot of expectations after paying hefty sums to agents for obtaining visas, find their dreams unfulfilled because of the stark realities of inadequate or non-payment of salaries vis-à-vis spiralling costs and demands back home, Shamsudheen said.
Another major cause is the insensitive attitude of the families of expats living in India.
“Expat workers, particularly the low income groups, forget their own hardships and send money regularly to their dependents back home. Their families are living in extraordinary comfort and have got into the habit of demanding money from the NRI breadwinner. Many expats complain that their families fail to recognise their sacrifices and the realities of their living conditions here and consider them only as money minting machines,” he said.
Expats consequently get into the clutches of loan sharks and many are unable to get out of the vicious circle of loans and debts. The poor living conditions of blue-collar workers are also causing psychological problems and many resort to consuming alcohol to drown their sorrows. More debts are incurred as liquor is invariably bought on credit, leading to despair among some of them and the resultant suicidal tendencies.
Marital discord due to long working hours and high expectations is also causing psychological problems in some cases. “The absence of an extended circle where expats can share their problems and feelings has given rise to loneliness and socio-psychological problems,” Shamsudheen said.