05/06/2015, 00.00
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Kyrgyzstan’s economic crisis pushes up suicide rate

A study shows that the suicide rate in the Central Asian country jumped from 550 in 2000 to around 700. The global economic crisis is blamed for the increase. Apostolic Administrator Mgr Nikolaus Messmer agrees with the findings. The problem is especially serious among teenagers.

Bishkek (AsiaNews) – The global economic crisis has led to a higher number of suicides in Kyrgyzstan.

According to a study by EurasiaNet, every year about 700 people (one for every 8,300 residents in a country of 5.7 million people) take their own life.

The government has tried to downplay the data, but official medical sources have confirmed the rising trend.

“There were many fewer cases before. Suicides and hangings were quite rare, but during the last four or five years such cases happen more often, especially during the last two years,” said Baktygul Aralbaeva, the deputy chief doctor at Bishkek’s ambulance service.

Economic reasons are a major factor, given that in Kyrgyz society money and connections, not necessarily hard work, often seem to be more important in determining professional success.

“Quite often, men commit suicides, leaving their families. They take loans, and desperate situations push them to this act,” Dr Aralbaeva explained.

“Young people cannot get jobs,” he added. “Before, people graduated from college, got jobs and worked. Now, even if you have two diplomas, without contacts you will not get a job.”

Mgr Nikolaus Messmer, the local apostolic administrator, agrees. “It is true. The situation is grim,” he told AsiaNews. “People are out of work. Villagers move to big cities to seek better opportunities and build a better life. But sometimes things go wrong."

Mental health experts also agree. For Mizirkhat Kurmanaliev of the National Mental Health Centre, there is a common misperception that those who attempt suicide tend to be mentally ill.

“My experience shows that these are mostly people with personal drama: family issues, economic problems. Suicides are more typical for healthy people who had an active life,” he noted.

Interior Ministry spokesman Ernis Osmonbaev said that the number of suicides in Kyrgyzstan has not changed considerably over the last five years, since the numbers jumped from about 550 a year in the 2000s to 680 or 690 annually, where they have stayed since 2010.

What is worrying for the authorities and experts is that teenagers are now increasingly trying to take their own life. Older people “are more tolerant of the problems they face, they have a philosophical attitude to the issue, while youth react emotionally,” Kurmanaliev added.

According to a report in 2014 the World Health Organisation, titled Preventing suicide: A global imperative, in Kyrgyzstan 11.6 per cent of young people between 15 and 29 took their own life in 2012, a number similar to that of South Korea, one of the countries with the highest suicide rates in the world.

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