Greek suicide rate now the highest in Europe


THE SUICIDE rate in Greece has reached a pan-European record high, with experts attributing the rise to the country’s economic crisis. Painful austerity measures and a seemingly endless economic drama is exacting a deadly toll on the nation. Statistics released by the Greek ministry of health show a 40 per cent rise in those taking their own lives between January and May this year compared to the same period in 2010.

Before the financial crisis first began to bite three years ago, Greece had the lowest suicide rate in Europe at 2.8 per 100,000 inhabitants. It now has almost double that number, the highest on the continent, despite the stigma in a nation where the Orthodox church refuses funeral rights for those who take their lives. Attempted suicides have also increased.

“It’s never just one thing, but almost always debts, joblessness, the fear of being fired are cited when people phone in to say they are contemplating ending their lives,” said Eleni Beikari, a psychiatrist at the non-governmental organisation, Klimaka, which runs a 24-hour suicide hotline. It received about 10 calls a day before the crisis; it now gets more than 100 in any 24-hour period.

“Most come from women aged between 30 and 50 and men between 40 and 45 despairing over economic problems,” said Ms Beikari. “In my experience it’s the men, suffering from hurt dignity and lost pride, who are most serious.”

Child helplines have similarly been deluged by calls. “The crisis is clearly aggravating family relations,” Katiana Spyrides, another psychotherapist, said. – Guardian service