From 2007-11 – just before and during Greece’s crushing economic crisis, suicides soared 43 percent in a country which had one of the lowest rates in Europe prior to that, the statistical agency ELSTAT reported.
There have been some public and high-profile suicides, such as a pensioner who shot himself in the head under a tree in Syntagma Square across the street from the Parliament in Athens, and many that have gone unreported or little noticed during a time when many Greeks suffered big pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions imposed by successive governments on the orders of international lenders.
According to ELSTAT there was 26.5% increase in 2011 compared to 2010 and 43% compared to 2007, the year before the crisis began. There were 328 suicides in 2007, 373 in 2008, 391 in 2009, 377 in 2010 and 477 in 2011. The NGO Klimaka said more suicides go undocumented although unless there is a note to go with it, there is not an accurate way to correlate the reasons, analysts have cautioned.
The region with the highest suicide rate is Crete, where there 37 suicides in 2011, 49 in 2012 and 34 in 2013 (up to the end of August.) The majority (35%) of callers at the NGO’s suicide help line (1018) are unemployed, followed by self-employed and pensioners.
The NGO also noted that their hotline used to receive phone calls mostly related to mental health issues, but in recent times social and financial issues are common. About 41% of callers contact the helpline out of concern for family member or friend.
A study involving the 26 EU member states indicates that a 1% increase of unemployment has triggered a 0.79% increase of suicides in the under-65’s; a 3% increase of unemployment has resulted in a 4.45% increase in suicides. The male 30-44 age group is hit the hardest.
With Sept. 10 designate as International Suicide Prevention Day, Klimaka has arranged an event for at Klafthmonos Square, where the NGO will be handing out information on suicide prevention. A tribute will also be help for people who have committed suicide. The Mental Health Mobile Unit of the Southeast Kyklades will hold similar events at its offices on Naxos, Ios, Amorgos and Santorini.