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Spain's suicide rate jumps to record high in economic crisis

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Spain's suicide rate jumps to record high in economic crisis
Photo: Paranoid Monk / Flickr
12:46 CEST+02:00
The suicide rate in Spain has risen 20 percent since the start of the economic crisis and now causes more than twice the number of deaths than from road traffic accidents.

Suicide is the leading cause of unnatural death in Spain far outpacing death on the roads, from accidental falls or from drowning, and has soared by 20 percent since Spain's economic crisis hit in 2008.

An average of ten people kill themselves each day in Spain, according to new figures released by the country's National Statistics Agency amounting to a total of 3,910 suicides during 2014 up from 3,263 in 2007.

In comparison, road deaths claimed the lives of 1,873 during 2014 a huge drop from the peak in 1989 when 8,218 people were killed on Spanish roads.

Spain's economic crisis saw the nation suffer strict austerity measures, high unemployment, and a surge in house repossessions, which are widely considered to have contributed to a spike in suicide rates.

The largest rise in the suicide rate since the start of the crisis is seen in middle aged men, the number of men aged around 50 to kill themselves has leapt 38 percent during the eight year period.

"The age groups who feel the crisis most fully are most affected. You don't react the same way to life's challenges at 50 as you to at 20," explains Julio Perez Diaz, an analyst at Spain's national scientific research centre (CSIC).

Luis de Rivera, a psychiatrist at the Madrid's Institute of Psychotherapy told El Mundo that it wasn't just economic hardship that is to blame for the rise in suicides but the disillusionment caused by the crisis.

"The breakdown of basic beliefs and convictions are also to blame," he explained.

"For example (the crisis) brings an end to the certainty that if you gain a university degree you will live very well. In Spain we tended to equate psychological security with economic security and have sacrificed things like family, relationships and personal well being along the way. Now we find such sacrifices have been in vain."

Miriam Gonzalez, of the College of Pschologists in Madrid, called on the government to develop campaigns to tackle the causes of suicide in the same way that they ran successful campaigns to reduce the number of road deaths.

"We increasingly live in a society in which people feel alone," she said in an interview with Cadena Ser on Thursday morning, explaining that 90 percent of those who commit suicide have mental health problems.

"Mental health issues should be taken more seriously," she urged.

In fact, although Spain's suicide rate has  reached a 25 years high, it still has one of the lowest rates within the European Union according to Eurostat figures from 2013.

Spain's rate of 8.4 suicides per 100,000 people is below the 11.6 EU average where Lithuania has the highest rate at 35, followed by Hungry, 21, Latvia, 19 and Belgium, 17.2.

Despite suffering the highest unemployment in the Eurozone, Greece's suicide rate remains the lowest at 4.7, while the UK rate comes in at 7.3 and Italy 6.6.

The Samaritans in Spain offers a 24 hour telephone support line in English to speak to one of their volunteers call freephone: 900 525 100.

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