Suicides double in Greece in 2009-2011 period

A day ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day, reports suggest that the doubling of the number of suicides in Greece in the three-year period between 2009 and 2011 represents a trend that shows no sign of abating this year.

Combined data by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT), the Citizens’ Protection Ministry and the European statistical agency Eurostat show that Greece went from being one of the countries with the smallest number of suicides in the world to seeing suicides double in the three years between 2009 and 2011.

The number of deaths by suicide rose from 2.5 per 100,000 of the population before 2009 to over five per 100,000, or 1,245 in the three-year period during which the country was hit by a combination of deep recession and tough austerity measures. Meanwhile, the data also show that the ratio in deaths by suicide between men and women is at 6:1.

Official data are not available for the period from 2011 to the present, though a report by the state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency published on Monday said that the local branch of the Suicide Prevention Network has recorded 231 suicides from January to August this year alone.

While many link the rise in suicides directly to the economic crisis, a psychiatrist at Klimaka, a non-governmental organization that provides shelter and support to the Greek capital’s homeless and indigent population, suggests that linking the two may be misleading.

Kyriakos Katsadoros argues that “the crisis does not have a direct causal effect on suicides, but, rather, creates or worsens the conditions that push vulnerable people who would otherwise not resort to such action to the edge.”

Data by the World Health Organization and the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) show that the suicide rate on a global scale is 16 people per 100,000, accounting for an average 1 million deaths a year.

Depression and substance abuse are cited as the key triggers.

Meanwhile, the WHO estimates that an average of 3,000 people make an attempt at taking their own life every day, saying that those who succeed have often made as many as 20 attempts at some earlier stage.

The social stigma attached to suicides and insufficient public awareness campaigns educating the public in spotting the signs among their family, friends and colleagues are, according to international and local authorities, key factors in rising suicide rates.

“People do not talk about suicide because they do not want to be stigmatized, while, for the same reason, they do not make use of the social services available,” the Public Health Directorate of the regional authority of Central Macedonia said in a statement on Monday.

“This kind of stigma is deeply rooted in some societies, though in most it is a sign of ignorance or lack of information,” the statement added.

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