Greece and Italy are normally associated with beautiful sea views, earthy food and vibrant culture. In the last few years, however, these countries have also experienced some of the worst economic hardships as the European and global economies have weakened.
Last month a retired Greek man, Dimitris Christoulas, shot himself in a public square in Athens. In a report issued by CBS News, the retired pharmacist committed suicide due to the debt crisis in Greece and the resultant austerity measures that have brought many Greek families to the brink of ruin. The number of suicides increased by about 40 percent in the second half of 2011 and has continued to pose a problem in Greece. NPR has stated that about 30 percent of Greek families live below the poverty line.
Christoulas’ suicide sparked a number of protests in the streets in Greece. He became an icon of the severity that has plunged so many families into poverty.
Italy has also been at the front of headlines recently for a rash of suicides intimately connected with economic problems. Just this week, three people committed suicide, leaving tragic notes that revealed their despair at their inability to find new employment. There have been 34 suicides related to economic hardships in Italy since January, according to NBC News.
The Italian government owes many entrepreneurs up to $90 million and “some have been waiting to be paid for up to two years.” And these suicides are often committed by businessmen who have watched their businesses fail, or male family members who have lost a significant source of income.
An association near Asolo in Italy started a crisis helpline for those who have felt distress, but family members of potential suicide cases are more likely to call in asking for help than the men who are at risk.
And the Mediterranean region is not the only area to be hit by rising suicide numbers in the world. Both Ireland and the United Kingdom have experienced a rise in the number of suicides over the last few years, according to the BBC, quoting a 2011 Lancet report that pinned a rise in suicides in the UK at a 10 percent increase between 2007 and 2009.
And while many people have been affected by unemployment and rising rates of depression and suicide in the eurozone, there has also been a major backlash towards continued austerity measures. Greek voters have summarily rejected any continued austerity measures. The newly-elected French president, François Hollande, has also demanded that new growth initiatives be put in place with a shift away from austerity measures that cut off families in need of assistance, as the Telegraph cites.
The tense environment in the eurozone has forced European Union leaders to call a meeting for May 25, in which they will attempt to come up with a solution to the looming Greek debt that threatens the security of the continent. Hollande and Germany’s Angela Merkel are sure to come to heads over the best way to approach the economic issues facing the European Union.
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