In recent years, countries throughout the world have experienced economic upheaval. Greece has been particularly hard hit, and saw unprecedented economic uncertainty in the years between 2008 and 2012. Previously, Greece had one of the lowest suicide rates in the world. But the stress of unemployment and the financial effects on housing, security, and access to much-needed resources has caused the suicide rate to rise.
Marina Economou of the University of Mental Health Research Institute in Athens, Greece wanted to examine the factors that lead to suicide and specifically identify which individuals are most at risk for suicidal ideation and attempts during an economic downturn. To do this, Economou examined data from two telephone surveys completed in 2009 and 2011. There were over 2,000 individuals who took part in the telephone surveys at each time point. They reported on mental health status, financial strain, interpersonal relationships and support, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and demographic details.
Economou discovered that completed suicides rose from 507 to 622 and dipped slightly to 598 in the years between 2009 and 2011. Those most likely to complete suicide were those with depression, married people, men, people with financial stress, and those with low levels of interpersonal support and trust. Additionally, prior suicide attempts increased the risk of completed suicides.
Economou believes that men are especially vulnerable to financial distress, because they are usually the breadwinners in Greece. When these men, especially married men, are unable to provide for their families, they may experience significant emotional stress and depression. Further, men are less likely to show their vulnerabilities and are less likely to seek help for emotional problems. Older men between the ages of 55 and 64 were particularly at risk because many of the faced forced early retirement and were financially unprepared to rely on a fixed income.
These findings underscore the importance of clinical training so that mental health professionals can identify and treat those most vulnerable to suicide. Economou added, “A strategic plan for treating major depression and preventing suicide should be implemented, if Greece is to retain its low position in suicide rates worldwide.”
Economou, Marina, and Michael Madianos. (2013). Suicidal ideation and reported suicide attempts in Greece during the economic crisis. World Psychiatry 12.1 (2013): 53-59. Web.
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