Greek Tragedy: Suicide Rate Doubles
Greece’s Economic Pain Takes Its Toll
You can get to a point in this world where there is little difference between life and death, where your condition is so wretched that it would be preferable to just be done with it all. I’m not necessarily talking life and death here per se; think about relationships you’ve walked away from and jobs you’ve quit. The math of walking away is never easy, the inner monologue usually goes like this:
“Well, I don’t want to lose what I have and then have nothing…but I certainly can’t go on living this way either.”
So you just do it, you take the leap. You accept the fact that a big shock or blow is coming but if you don’t just end it, the misery will continue. “So goodbye Ameriprise”, or “So long Jennifer”…whatever you’re escaping from. A lot of times the dread of ending it is worse than the act itself or the aftermath.
In that spirit, I turn your attention to the sad endgame in happening now in Greece. No jokes, no smartassery – these people are miserable and at the breaking point with the mess they’ve made. The Wall Street Journal has a sobering look at the stats this morning including a heartbreaking bit about the suicide rate:
Gross domestic product in the second quarter was down more than 7% from a year before, amid government spending cuts and tax increases that, combined, will add up to about 20% of GDP. Unemployment is over 16%. Crime, homelessness, emigration and personal bankruptcies are on the rise.
The most dramatic sign of Greece’s pain, however, is a surge in suicides.
Recorded suicides have roughly doubled since before the crisis to about six per 100,000 residents annually, according to the Greek health ministry and a charitable organization called Klimaka.
It’s all very tragic and at a certain point you can’t help but wonder if it’s time to just get down to brass tacks and accept the medicine. Not the bandaids that prolong this for another six months or a year – the actual medicine.
The New York Times is reporting that some economists and officials are recommending that very course of action:
But some economists believe default may be inevitable — and that it may actually be better for Greece and, despite a short-term shock to the system, perhaps eventually for Europe as well. They are beginning to wonder whether the consequences of a default or a more radical debt restructuring, dire as they may be, would be no worse for Greece than the miserable path it is currently on.
A default would relieve Greece of paying off a mountain of debt that it cannot afford, no matter how much it continues to cut government spending, which already has caused its economy to shrink.
At the same time, however, there is a fear of the unknown beyond Greece’s borders. Merrill Lynch estimates that the shock to growth in Europe, while not as severe as in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, would be troubling, with overall output contracting by 1.3 percent in 2012.
No one is saying this will be pretty…but can it be much worse than the road they’re on now?
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