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Greek Campaign To Tackle Suicide Rate Spurred By Financial Crisis

posted 10 Sept 2013, 15:32 by Mpelembe   [ updated 10 Sept 2013, 15:33 ]

A Greek suicide prevention centre stages a campaign in Athens to raise awareness of social ills, including suicide and drug abuse, which rose during the economic crisis.

ATHENSGREECE (SEPTEMBER 10, 2013)(REUTERS) -  "World Suicide Prevention Day" was marked in Athens on Tuesday (September 10) with a crisis group trying to promote more awareness about a suicide prevention hotline, after the number of Greek suicides in the last four years during the economic crisis rose dramatically.

The group handed out pamphlets with the four digit number to call, as well as yellow ribbons to mark the day.

Greek statistics show that from 2009 to 2012, during the country's economic crisis, suicides rose alarmingly.

In 2009, 677 people attempted or succeeded in committing suicide. In 2012 that number rose to 3,124 people, according to the Greek Ministry of Public Order.

"Economic issues are not the only reason for suicide, one does not necessarily bring the other, but everywhere in Europe where unemployment has increased so has suicide. When unemployment falls so do suicides, the indicators seem to move at the same time, they seem to have a relationship," said Aris Voliatzis, director of the suicide prevention centre at the non-governmental organization Klimaka.

Other social ills and abuses have also gone up, say health industry workers. More and more people turned to drugs in the last years to deal with the results of austerity brought on by the economic crisis, such as unemployment.

Recently, doctors at one state drug addiction treatment clinic said unemployment escalated the problems of drug addicts and recovering drug users.

"Some of our members had jobs, (but) now there is high unemployment. Also people relied on their benefits, but are now facing economic problems because benefits have been cut, so the situation has become clearly worse," said psychiatrist Constantine Bitas, director of the clinic.

Highly dangerous home-made narcotics that can be easily made at home from poisonous household products were getting wider and wider use because they were cheap, said Bitters. "In what we call problematic drug users, they can even cause death. Plus there are psychological effects of these substances, psychosis, panic attacks, deep depression, even maybe suicide," he said.

But alcohol abuse and violence at home were also on the rise in the last years because of the strains put on families by economic difficulties, health industry workers have said.

At a recent doctors' conference in June on the effects of the crisis on public health,Athens University Professor of Psychiatry Marina Oikonomou said depression had become a given fact of the crisis. A helpline by the University Research Institute of Mental Health reported that between 2009 and 2012 the number of people calling the helpline suffering from depression due to economic factors such as unemployment rose from 8.4 percent to 39.2 percent.

"The state must handle the personal problems that people are facing. Behind the numbers are people, and human pain, and economists must not ignore this," saidEconomou.