Unemployment, economic hardship, and the shame of being considered Europe’s black sheep – the Greek have never been so dispirited. And the number of cases of clinical depression and suicides is soaring.
While the rest of Europe may be tormented by the thought of having to cough up ever more money to bail out Athens, the once carefree Greeks are getting more depressed by the day. Psychiatrists say that the economic crisis has triggered a 25 to 30% increase in the number of patients seeking their help.
"There is an increase in the number of patients suffering from minor psychiatric conditions: anxiety, panic attacks and depression," says Dimitris Ploumidis, head of a mental health center in eastern Athens. "In September 2010, people had to wait two weeks for a consultation, now it's more like two-and-a-half months."
Before the crisis started, Greece was proud to be at the bottom of the list in Europe for the number of suicides, with a rate of 2,8 for 100,000 inhabitants. But that might be changing. Experts believe that in 2009 their number suffered a 18% increase compared with 2007, with numbers expected to have climbed ever higher in 2010.
Most people who commit suicide come from Athens or the island of Crete, where several business people killed themselves in the midst of grave financial problems. "The desire to commit suicide always has more than one cause, but a lot of those who come to us for help are people who used to make a good living, and who are now having financial difficulties," says Aris Violatzis, a psychiatrist from the Klimaka NGO, in charge of the SOS Suicide hotline.
If experts believe that this national blues stems mainly from economic troubles, they also suspect that worries about the future of Greece might be at work too. "The Greek identity has suffered a tremendous blow," says Aris Violatzis. "They are ashamed. The entire world today thinks that the Greek are cheaters, and the black sheep of Europe. This is very hard to accept."
Read the full article in French by Alain Salles