Sharp rise in suicides amid crisis

Health Minister Andreas Loverdos told Parliament on Thursday that the number of people taking their own lives in Greece has increased by 40 percent, responding to a question from independent MP Lefteris Avgenakis about the growing pressure on entrepreneurs and citizens due to the impact of the country?s debt crisis.

Loverdos did not explicitly link the alarming increase to the economic crisis, noting simply that ?recent statistics and studies show an increase in suicides of around 40 percent.?

He said Greece remained among the countries with the lowest suicide rates, according to the World Health Organization (6.5 suicides per 100,000 residents last year).

This figure is believed to be lower than the real number, however, as many suicides are not reported due to the refusal of the Orthodox Church to conduct religious services for those who take their own lives.

A spokeswoman for Klimaka, a nongovernmental organization offering support to the homeless and depressed, said calls to the group?s helpline 1018 quadrupled last year. ?One in four calls are about debts,? said Eleni Bekiari.