The financial crisis has driven up the suicide rate in Greece, according to an official report from the Athens-based aid group Klimaka. The announcement comes as the public health agencies and loved ones of victims mark World Suicide Prevention Day.
Klimaka stated that suicides steadily rose in the Mediterranean nation between 2007 and 2011. Annual deaths by self-harm during the first four years of the financial meltdown went from 328 to 477 — a jump of 45 percent, according to data from the Greek Statistical Authority.
Despite this finding, Greece still has one of the lowest suicide rates in Europe, although Klimaka’s own data says that this rate has continued to rise over 2012 and 2013.
"The official stats are generally lagging. Our data suggests a very large rise. We are talking about specific individuals whose names and circumstances have been recorded," Klimaka’s head psychiatrist, Aris Violatzis, told the Associated Press. The organization had collected its number from families of victims, local churches, and funeral homes, along with official records.
Preventing A Tragedy
As these sobering figures come from Greece, health officials are using World Suicide Prevention Day — Sept. 10 — as a beacon for messages of hope for those contemplating the worst.
It’s estimated that five percent of people on the planet attempt suicide at least once in the their life, according to the International Association of Suicide Prevention (IASP), who founded the day of awareness. Self-harm claims more lives than war and homicide combined. The World Health Organization (WHO) is collaborating with IASP to sponsor official events in over 100 countries today to highlight the dangers of this global pandemic.
“Reducing stigma and helping those with mental disorders to get treatment is a major step towards prevention,” said IASP president Dr. Lanny Berman in a video message yesterday.
Pyschological conditions are a life-threatening facet of life in developed countries. In the U.S., 60 percent of suicide attempts occur in people with depression and bipolar disorder. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that self-harm increased sharply for middle-aged Americans, with a 30 percent rise for those between the ages of 35 and 64.
Reducing access to common methods of self-harm — like pesticides — in countries such as China, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia could play a pivotal role in lowering suicide rates.
"The general assumption in the public is that these are people who want to die, so why bother trying to prevent it?" Berman told the Huffington Post. "But these are not people who want to die. They are just blinded by hopelessness. Ninety percent of people who do get help never go on to die from suicide. ... The moment passes."
Many resources exist for those at risk as well as for concerned loved ones. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides a checklist of what to look for and ways to prevent a suicide. Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain, increasing the use of alcohol or drugs, and behaving recklessly are just some of the possible signs.
The NIH also recommends that those looking for help should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.