FaithWorld

FInancial crisis boosts European suicide rates, especially in Greece, Ireland

(Suicide hotline sign at telephone booth near Beachy Head, the chalk cliffs near Eastbourne, a leading UK suicide spot, 29 January 2009/Les Chatfield)

Suicides rates rose sharply in Europe in 2007 to 2009 as the financial crisis drove unemployment up and squeezed incomes, with the worst hit countries like Greece and Ireland seeing the most dramatic increases, researchers said on Friday. Rates of road deaths in the region fell during the same period, possibly because higher numbers of jobless people led to lower car use, according to an initial analysis of data from 10 European Union (EU) countries.

“Even though we’re starting to see signs of a financial recovery, what we’re now also seeing is a human crisis. There’s likely to be a long tail of human suffering following the downturn,” said David Stuckler, a sociologist at Britain’s Cambridge University, who worked on the analysis.

Stuckler said he feared the social and health costs of the recent global economic downturn would turn out to be high. “We can already see that the countries facing the most severe financial reversals of fortune, such as Greece and Ireland, had greater rises in suicides,” he said. “And suicides are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of mental health problems. Suicide itself is a relatively rare event, but wherever you see a rise in suicides there is also a rise in failed suicide attempts and in new cases of depression.”

Analyzing data available so far, Stuckler and colleagues found that suicide rates were up 17 percent in Greece and 13 percent in Ireland. Unemployment increased by 2.6 percentage points — a 35 percent relative increase — between 2007 and 2009 across the EU as a whole, they said.

Zurich voters reject ban on “suicide tourism”

(Zurich city funeral services employees carry a casket from an assisted suicide clinic where a terminally ill British man died January 20, 2003/Sebastian Derungs)

Voters in Zurich overwhemingly rejected on Sunday proposed bans on assisted suicide and “suicide tourism” — foreigners traveling to Switzerland to receive help ending their lives. Only 15.5 percent of voters in the local referendum backed a ban on assisted suicide, while nearly 22 percent supported a ban on suicide tourism, final results showed. About 200 people commit assisted suicide each year in Zurich.

Assisted suicide has been allowed in Switzerland since 1941 if performed by a non-physician who has no vested interest in the death. Euthanasia, or “mercy killing,” is legal only in the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the U.S. state of Oregon. Many terminally ill foreigners — particularly from Germany, France and Britain — travel to Switzerland to commit suicide, taking advantage of the Swiss rules which are among the world’s most liberal.

Islamist rebels take aim at Russia ahead of election year

chechen

(Doku Umarov (C) with Chechen rebels in an undated video/www.kavkazcenter.com/Reuters TV)

A suicide attack on Russia’s busiest airport shows Islamist rebel leader Doku Umarov is serious about inflicting “blood and tears” on the Russian heartland ahead of the 2012 presidential election. Umarov, a 46-year-old rebel leader who styles himself as the Emir of the Caucasus, claimed responsibility for the January 24 attack that killed 36 and said he had dozens of suicide bombers ready to unleash on Russian cities.

Russia is struggling to contain a growing Islamist insurgency along its southern flank nearly 12 years after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin rose to popularity by leading Russia into a second war against Chechen separatists.

Child abuse was widespread in Belgian Catholic Church – Church report

AdriaenssensChild sexual abuse was widespread in the Belgian Catholic Church and drove at least 13 victims to suicide, according to a report published on Friday.  “Almost every institution, every school, particularly boarding schools, at one time harboured abuse,” Peter Adriaenssens, the head of a Church commission monitoring complaints, told a news conference. (Photo: Peter Adriaenssens, July 6, 2010/Yves Herman)

More than half of its 200-page report, based on cases recorded up till then, consists of excerpts of testimony from victims. The 475 cases it recorded included victims as young as two. Two-thirds were male and boys aged about 12 were particularly vulnerable. In most cases, abuse tailed off when victims reached 15 or 16.

Adriaenssens said: “With these testimonies, it was not about superficial handling. It was about oral and anal abuse, forced and mutual masturbation. In other words, it was about people who had experienced serious acts.”

A small book on a huge topic — about responding to suicide

troybook2There’s a knock on the door and it’s your ashen-faced neighbour come to tell you her son has just been found hanging in his bedroom. Your brother calls to inform you that his daughter has taken her life. You are shocked and speechless. And then what do you do? (Photo:  Philip McTaggart and Fr Aidan Troy at Belfast book launch, 1 Dec 2009/John Harrison)

Aiden Troy knows those helpless moments well. A few years ago, he got those messages — and saw some of the evidence –14 times in two months. As a Catholic parish priest in Belfast, he was often one of the first to be called by family or friends of the deceased. Sometimes police would call him first and ask him to break the news to the family and help in any way he could. In a very short time, he became more familiar than he ever expected with tragedies people usually think only happen to others.

“It is nearly impossible if you have not been there to describe what those first few moments following discovery are like. They are frightening to behold … There is no instruction book that can tell us how to cope with a suicide,” Troy says. But after years of dealing with suicide and suicide support groups, he decided to write “some tentative suggestions and observations born of my experience, in the hope that they may be helpful in a pastoral context.” He wrote it not only for other priests and not only for other Catholics, but for “a wide range of people who come into contact with suicide … the immediate family, neighbours and community … medical and hospital personnel, ambulance and police services, suicide support groups and clergy, undertakers and morgue personnel.”