In 2005, Greece had the lowest suicide rate among OECD countries (2.9 per 100,000, compared to 23.7 for South Korea with the highest rate). Though the overall rate is still comparatively low, it has been rapidly increasing over the past few years and it’s now estimated that it may have as much as doubled. Coupled with a significant increase in demand for mental health services and in the number of anti-depressants being prescribed, the psychological impact of the financial crisis is becoming increasingly obvious.
Meanwhile, staff and budget cuts due to austerity measures are simultaneously straining health services sometimes to the point where they are no longer able to function.
The Cycladic Mobile Psychological Health Unit, EPAPSY, has faced cuts of 60% over the past three years, causing serious staff shortages and impairment to its services in the islands. On Paros, however, EPAPSY has been able to maintain a stable and consistent presence, thanks to the fact that the local municipality has provided financial assistance to ensure the unit is able to offer the best possible support to its citizens.
The NGO Klimaka continues to provide mental health support on Naxos, as well as having set up a national suicide prevention hotline – 1018 – which is available 24/7. Staff speak English as well as Greek and will do their best to find someone speaking other languages if needed.
When someone we know tries to take their own life, it may come as a complete shock to us, particularly if we are unaware of the different stresses they have been experiencing. But there are often warning signs – according to the Crisis Centre of British Columbia, about 80% of people who attempt or complete suicide send out such signs to those around them, though they may not make a direct plea for help. Warning signs may include:
* Talking or joking about suicide or dying;
* Making preparations for death such as giving away significant possessions, making a will, writing a suicide note, clearing up loose ends;
* A previous suicide attempt; the suicide of someone important;
* Being persistently depressed or down for more than a couple of weeks; protracted anxiety or agitation; extreme mood swings/bipolarity; outbursts of rage, grief, violence;
* Isolation, withdrawal from previously enjoyed relationships and activities;
* Lethargy, lack of interest, low energy, insomnia or over-sleeping;
* Increased use of alcohol or drugs;
* Uncharacteristic high risk activity, impulsive behaviours;
* Expressions of hopelessness, helplessness, purposelessness;
* Low self-esteem, low self-worth, self-contempt, anger toward self;
* Significant loss(es), such as important relationship, health, identity, economic security, freedom.
There are many resources available on the Internet about suicide risks and prevention. If you are concerned for a friend or family member, educate yourself as much as possible in how to talk to them lovingly, openly and non-judgmentally. And call for help.
You are not alone.
Suicide is not the answer.
Getting help is the answer.