Economically Depressed Greece Plagued by Rash of Suicides

As Greek's May 6 election approaches, a country with a very low suicide rate is facing a disturbing trend. Suicide is up in Greece — much of it very public, and very brutal.

On Monday, a 38-year-old geology lecturer hanged himself from a lamp post in Athens and on the same day a 35-year-old priest jumped to his death off his balcony in northern Greece. On Wednesday, a 23-year-old student shot himself in the head.

The Greek economic crisis has put millions out of work, while those with jobs have been forced to take dramatic pay cuts. The suicides reflect national hopelessness that economic conditions will not improve.

Perhaps the most shocking recent suicide was that of 77-year-old pharmacist Dimitris Christoulas, who shot himself in the head during rush hour in a central Athens square. Before killing himself, Christoulas left a note saying, "I see no other solution than this dignified end of my life so I don't find myself fishing through garbage cans for sustenance."

Just to be clear, the Greek suicide rate is still pretty low: it's mostly significant because the rate before the global financial crisis took its toll on the country in 2009 was even lower.

Before the financial crisis began wreaking havoc in 2009, Greece had one of the lowest suicide rates in the world — 2.8 per 100,000 inhabitants. There was a 40 percent rise in suicides in the first half of 2010, according to the Health Ministry.

The current estimate is 5 suicides per 100,000, while need for psychiatric care and antidepressants are also on the rise. The numbers may remain low, but for a nation like Greece, it's difficult not to notice such a depressing trend.

[Image via AP]