Greeks dying from financial despair

10/19/2011 21:48

EuroNews:  No vessels have been entering or leaving Athens’ main port, Piraeus, frozen by strikes. With many people sinking into serious depression. A ferry ticket seller talked about real and symbolic paralysis.

Antonios Kafouros said: “We try to sell but we can’t. There is no people. They want to go to their destinations, but they can’t go. Everybody is crazy. All the people.”

Many Greeks are exhausted from the sustained anger, demanding solutions for their complaints. Typical of those under severe stress is Vassiliki Angelatou, a researcher with the geological institute for 24 years. She has seen her salary reduced by a third recently, and austerity measures are about to cut it in half. She wondered about her family’s future in Greece.

Angelatou said: “You stop spending on anything because you don’t know how the next day will dawn. It’s not just the wage cuts. It doesn’t stop there. It’s the uncertainty of what else tomorrow will bring, because every day something new is announced.”

Relatively middle income families are bearing the brunt of new taxes. Each development feels more unjust than the last.

Angelatou complained: “You work for so many years and you feel deeply insulted. What is happening is really unfair, to everyone. You ask yourself why? Especially when you don’t see any result.”

From the knock-on effects of financial stress, the incidence of psychological illness in Greece is growing alarmingly, just as real as physical illness, said hospital doctor George Bouras: “There are unemployed people who have difficulty sleeping. Others can’t eat. Others have lost all motivation. They have trouble doing anything. There are gravely depressed people.”

A newly-published study by British medical journal The Lancet looks at the rise in numbers of Greeks killing themselves. Its co-author referred to sources in Greece.

Alexandre Kentikelenis, a sociologist at Kings College, Cambridge, said: “We have been able to find reports by the minister of health and other officials quoting a 25 percent rise in suicides in 2010 and a 40 percent rise in the first half of 2011.”

The study also points to a 50 percent rise in people getting HIV, mostly linked to drug use, and some thought to be deliberate attempts to qualify for welfare benefits.

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