Spanish helpline reports rise in number of callers considering suicide
Psychiatrist says mental health problems are increasing and suicide rate is up since financial crisis began
Calls from people who say they are contemplating suicide to Spain’s equivalent of the Samaritans increased by 30% to 1,567 in 2012, the helpline has said. Since 2008 suicide has been the most common cause of death in Spain aside from natural causes.
The organisation said 74% of suicidal callers were not in a relationship, pointing to “a clear link between loneliness and suicide”. Some 45.9% of callers were single and 23.8% were separated or divorced, while 4.3% were widowed.
“I believe that suicide is under-diagnosed and undertreated, because mental problems are increasing more and more and because in a prosperous society people take failure much harder and have less capacity for suffering,” José Giner of the University of Seville psychiatry department told the Efe news agency. He said the rate had increased from six to eight per 100,000 people since the financial crisis began.
Suicide is up among the young, who have been hard hit by the crisis, with 56% of under-25s out of work. “Among young people what we find is a sense of desperation, not just because of the crisis, but because of an existential emptiness,” said Alfonso Echávarri of the Navarra helpline. “We can’t say the numbers have risen specifically because of the crisis, but there are many more callers who mention financial problems, depression and anxiety.”
Nine Spaniards kill themselves every day and for every suicide there are 20 failed attempts. In 2010 there were 3,145, more than those killed in traffic accidents. Recent years have seen an increase in the number of people killing themselves after having their homes repossessed by the banks. According to the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (Platform of People Affected by Mortgages), there have been 400,000 evictions since the financial crisis began in 2007. Last year, in response to the rise in suicides, Spain’s banking association said it would freeze evictions in cases of extreme hardship. Households with a combined income of less than €1,597 have since been offered a two-year moratorium.
According to the World Health Organisation suicide is the leading cause of violent death in the world. The number of suicides worldwide exceeds the numbers murdered and killed in warfare put together, the WHO says. One million people take their lives every year – one every 40 seconds. Nine of the 10 countries with the highest suicide rates are in Europe.