Greece’s crushing economic crisis, in which police officers have been the line of last defense keeping protesters from getting into the Parliament, is taking its toll on law enforcement with 16 officers having committed suicide since the country’s troubles began three years ago – five this year so far – Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias told lawmakers. i
Dendias was responding to a question from SYRIZA MPs in the wake of a policeman in Hania, Crete, shooting himself with his service revolver last month. The lawmakers suggested that the regularity of suicides may be lined to the pay reductions they have suffered over the past three years and the extra pressure brought on by spending cuts.
Dendias said that “there is no one, absolute factor” that causes people to commit suicide. However, the minister said that since October 2012, a special psychological support scheme has been available to police officers who need help. It involves psychologists visiting precincts around the country.
One police association, EKEO attributed the high suicide rate to other factors such as exhaustive working conditions, , exposure to risk, pressures from superiors, violent incidents, the high divorce rate in the police force. Dendias said that a special psychological support program for police was set up in October 2012.
Secial committees have also been established in Athens and Thessaloniki to review the suitability of officers to carry firearms. About 30 people officers are assessed daily. According to Klimaka, a mental health NGO, the number of suicides in 2011 were the highest in 50 years.
Klimaka reported that out of 477 suicides recorded in 2011, 393 involved men and 84 women, an overall 26.52% increase from 2010 and a 104.8% increase in the number of suicides carried out by women compared to the previous year. (Klimaka runs a suicide prevention helpline at 1018)
The Hellenic Security Advisors said they were not satisfied with the methods employed by the authorities in the field of psychological support of the Police Officers. EKEO aims to organize seminars and lectures in order to educate the Police Officers and prevent further increase in the suicide rate.