Suicides have Greeks on edge before election

Saturday, April 28, 2012
By Paul Martin

By Erik Kirschbaum
Reuters.com
Sat Apr 28, 2012

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.

In a country that has had one of the lowest suicide rates in the world, a surge in the number of suicides in the wake of an economic crisis has shocked and gripped the Mediterranean nation – and its media – before a May 6 election.

The especially grisly death of pharmacist Dimitris Christoulas, who shot himself in the head on a central Athens square because of poverty brought on by the crisis that has put millions out of work, was by far the most dramatic.

Before shooting himself during morning rush hour on April 4 on Syntagma Square across from the Greek parliament building, the 77-year-old pensioner took a moment to jot down a note.

“I see no other solution than this dignified end to my life so I don’t find myself fishing through garbage cans for sustenance,” wrote Christoulas, who has since become a national symbol of the austerity-induced pain that is squeezing millions.

Greek media have since reported similar suicides almost daily, worsening a sense of gloom going into next week’s election, called after Prime Minister Lucas Papademos’s interim government completed its mandate to secure a new rescue deal from foreign creditors by cutting spending further.

Some medical experts say this form of political suicide is a reflection of the growing despair and sense of helplessness many feel. But others warn the media may be amplifying the crisis mood with its coverage and numbers may only be up slightly.

“The crisis has triggered a growing sense of guilt, a loss of self-esteem and humiliation for many Greeks,” Nikos Sideris, a leading psychoanalyst and author in Athens, told Reuters.

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