Suicide rate soars in Greece as crisis worsens
Updated: 2012-06-18 01:04
By Fu Jing in Athens (China Daily)
Soaring suicide rates since the debt crisis unfolded have taken a toll on psychiatrist Dimitris Boukouras.
"Basically, I don't want to hear my help line ring or meet so many emotional visitors every day."
But Boukouras knows only too well that without his professional help many desperate patients might resort to committing suicide.
The financial crisis means that Greece is in the unenviable position of being the country with the highest suicide rate in Europe. More than 2,500 people have taken their own lives since 2010.
"This is the number for confirmed suicides. We think the real number is much higher," he said.
The first four months of this year saw a surge in the number of suicides among the poor and those older than 65. It has risen by more than 33 percent against the same period for last year.
Before the financial crisis began, Greece had the lowest suicide rate in Europe at 2.8 per 100,000 inhabitants, according to Eurostat.
That has almost doubled in 2011 and is rising.
A report by the Greek Ministry of Health found the suicide rate in the first half of 2011 was 40 percent higher than the year before.
The unemployment rate is more than 22 percent among the general population and 50 percent among the young.
Most of the people who commit suicide are pensioners and males, the former breadwinners of the family.
One particular case grabbed the headlines.
Dimitris Christoulas, 77, shot himself to death in Syntagma Square outside parliament in April. He left a suicide note accusing the government of slashing his pension to next to nothing. "I see no other solution than this dignified end to my life, so I don't find myself fishing through garbage cans for my sustenance," Christoulas wrote in the note.
Austerity measures have hit every sector of the economy and caused hardship in many homes. "There is a lot of anger and people see no end to the crisis," Boukouras said. "Greeks have become aggressive, emotional and extreme.
Boukouras believes that a broad coalition following is the best hope to provide jobs.
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