When a former pharmacist who had worked into his seventies killed himself many people in Greece saw it as a suicide caused by politics.
In his note Dimitris Christoulas said the government had killed any hope of survival with its austerity measures.
He was retired and pensioners on more than 1,200 euros per month had their pensions cut by 15 percent or more two years ago. So people who never knew him feel close to him.
Pensioner Zoe Tsirogianni said: “It’s a great shame. He could have been from our family. We are all heading there, we will all commit suicide. Today I got my Easter bonus. Instead of 400 euros I got 180 euros. How will I manage to live on this?”
The Greek suicide rate in 2010 rose by 18 percent. In Athens last year it rose by 25 percent. Before austerity, Greece had the lowest suicide rate in the EU. In February a woman threatened to leap from her office window when the latest round of public job cuts included her and her husband. In the end she didn’t go through jump.
Orestis Giotakos, Director of psychiatry at the Athens Military Hospital, said: “Twenty percent of suicides don’t have a background of mental illness. They are people who have had a traumatic incident in their life, or a severe financial problem or an illness they can’t cope with, and this is their solution to the pressure.”
The austerity-related suicide rate has also risen in Italy. On Tuesday, a widow – age 78 – fell to her death in Sicily. Her pension had been cut from 800 to 600 euros per month. Her children said she was in anguish about not being able to pay her bills.
On Monday, a woodworker near Rome hanged himself rather than live with loanshark debts. On Wednesday a bankrupted building entrepreneur shot himself in Rome.
Last week, two men in the north of Italy set themselves on fire. The count of self-inflicted deaths or attempted suicides in Italy related to economic angst reached 15 in the first three months of this year.