Suicides rates have been rising in Greece since the start of the economic crisis, according to statements to AMNA made by the head of 'Climax Plus', a suicide helpline operating under the auspices of the health and social solidarity ministry on Saturday. September 10 has been established as 'World Suicide Prevention Day' by the WHO.
Psychiatrist Kyriakos Katsadoros said that calls to the 24-hour 1018 helpline 'Intervention for Suicide' have more than doubled in 2011 compared to the previous year, with one in four callers reporting serious financial difficulties.
He said this confirmed that the economic crisis was creating a vicious circle of problems and was one of the factors that had a negative impact on the mental health of individuals.
Katsadoros said the helpline had received roughly 2,500 alls throughout 2010 while calls in the first eight months of 2011 had already exceeded 5,000.
"The alarming factor is not just the huge increase in the number of calls but also the fact that the reasons why people seek help have changed. In 2008 and 2009, most callers suffered from pscyhological problems. Those who now call us have financial difficulties and are at a dead end," he said.
He stressed that suicide can be prevented, provided that there is awareness in the close and broader social environment of an individual, since a person contemplating suicide often exhibits give-away symptoms like increased consumption of alcohol, sleeplessness, scepticism and introversion.
Dr. Katsadoros announced plans for an informational campaign designed to sensitise and inform professional groups that come into contact with large numbers of people, such as taxi drivers, hair dressers and others. He said the group would be attending an international conference on suicide prevention in Beijing, the information from which would be used to launch the campaign.
"What Greece needs is to create a technical strategy for suicide prevention," he underlined.
According to an announcement by the WHO, the economic crisis and the insecurity this causes could lead to an increase in suicides, which are more frequent among the unemployed than those in work.
A person without work is two to three times more likely to kill themselves than someone in work, while an increase in unemployment by 3 percent is linked to a 4.5 percent increase in suicides in the general population.
Greece traditionally ranks low in European rankings for suicide rates, with the Hellenic Statistical Authority recording 4,042 deaths due to suicide from 1999-2009. Of these, 3,288 were men and 754 were women.
In recent years, however, the rate of suicide in the country has been tending to increase. For example, there were 393 suicides (333 men and 58 women) in 2009, up from 328 suicides (268 men and 60 women) in 2007. There are no statistics for non-fatal suicide attempts, which are estimated to be 10 to 20 times as many.
Most suicides in Greece use violent methods, specifically hanging, with 57 percent of men and 55 percent of women choosing this method to kill themselves in 2009. The second most frequent method is use of a fire-arm (usually a hunting rifle) for men and poisoning for women.
Among other action taken by Climax Plus to mark September 10 is its participation in the 'Dance for Life' event taking place at Thissio in central Athens on Saturday evening at 18:30, with the participation of volunteers and the general public.
The event is sponsored by the General Secretary for Youth and the Athens Municipality.