Austerity takes its toll with suicides increasing in Greece

Posted Jul 2, 2012 by David Amerland
Greeks, once proud of their country and culture, in desperation are resorting to taking their own lives as debts, evictions and taxes continue to mount.
Central Athens
Central Athens
Desperation is driving many Greeks to take their own lives. There has been a 40 percent increase in the recorded suicide rate in Greece since the austerity measures hit the country.
Caught between dropping employment opportunities and a rising cost of living, made worse by repeated tax hikes, Greeks are struggling to make ends meet. Worst affected are those who live in large cities where businesses have been hardest hit.
Last April Greece had its “Arab Spring flare up moment” when Apostolos Polyzonis, a local businessman facing bankruptcy, set himself alight outside a bank in Thessaloniki. A couple of days later, a former pharmacist on pension, shot himself in the head in Syntagma Square, just outside the Greek Parliament. In the suicide note he left, he said he was protesting against government tax hikes which made it impossible for him to have any kind of dignified life. "This," he wrote, "is preferable to scavenging in rubbish bins looking for food."
Since those two high-profile incidents, Greeks have become accustomed to hearing about suicides in the news reports and the web. This is a country where public services have been the first casualty of the austerity measures. Suicide helplines have long been severely curtailed or completely shut down, leaving those most in need to their own fate.
With the rest of Europe and the world focused on dealing with their own pressing problems brought on by the crisis, Greeks will have to try and work this out themselves any way they can.
Greek society has a long tradition of providing close-knit community support. In times of difficulties, the community as a whole has rallied to those in need before the state could do so. But the constant erosion of wealth and earning power, the high unemployment rate, and the degradation of the standard of living of so many Greeks has conspired to rob Greeks of their pride and unravel even that traditional support.
The result is that Greeks continue to die, their lives subject to the whims of a financial crisis many had nothing to do with, and which they feel powerless to defend themselves against.