Greece: Suicide on the increase

Citizen protection ministry says that from 1 January 2009 to 23 August 2012, there were 3,124 suicides or attempted suicides nationwide


Greece’s suicide rate has doubled since 2009 public health officials have warned, ahead of this year’s world suicide prevention day on Tuesday 10 September.

According to official data, 1,245 Greeks took their own lives from 2009 to 2011, the public health directorate of Central Macedonia said in Thessaloniki, citing figures from the Hellenic Statistical Authority (Elstat) and the ministry for public order and citizen protection.

Although final data for 2012 is not yet available, the ministry says that from 1 January 2009 to 23 August 2012, there were 3,124 suicides or attempted suicides nationwide.

That means every month there are on average about 70 suicides or attempted suicides.

In 2009, Greece had the lowest ratio for suicide in the OECD group of industrialised countries, with only 2.8 suicides per 100,000 population.

Today, that figure has doubled to reach above 5 per 100,000,

In May, a non-governmental organisation specialising in mental health issues said that the number of suicides in 2011 had reached their highest level in 50 years.

Klimaka said 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 said last week that most of the 1,800 people who rang its 1018 suicide helpline number in the first half of this year were aged between 21-25 and 51-55 years.

About a third were unemployed, followed by private sector employees (13%) and pensioners (10.6%).


According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), suicide is a major public health problem in high-income countries and is an emerging problem in low- and middle-income countries.

It is one of the leading causes of death in the world, especially among young people.

Nearly one million people worldwide die by suicide each year. This corresponds to one death by suicide every 40 seconds. The number of lives lost each year through suicide exceeds the number of deaths due to homicide and war combined.

The WHO points out that a large proportion of people who die by suicide suffer from mental illness, with recent estimates suggesting that the disease burden caused by mental illnesses will account for a quarter of the total disease burden in the world in the next two decades, making it the most important category of ill-health (more important than cancer or heart diseases).

A significant number of those with mental illnesses who die by suicide do not contact health or social services near the time of their death. In many instances there are insufficient services available to assist those in need at times of crisis.

Lack of access to appropriate care is one of the many factors that magnify the stigma associated with mental illness and with suicidal ideation and behaviour. This type of stigma, which is deeply rooted in most societies, can arise for different reasons.

One of the causes of stigma is a simple lack of knowledge  – that is, ignorance. This type of stigma can be directly addressed by providing a range of community-based educational programmes that are targeted to specific subgroups within  society.

Negative attitudes about individuals with mental illnesses and/or suicidal ideation or impulses – prejudice – is common in many communities.

These negative attitudes often do not change with education about mental illnesses and suicidal behaviour.

* Klimaka runs a suicide prevention helpline at 1018




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