Bloggers say the increasing number of suicides should serve as a warning to authorities to address the harsh economic and social realities.
By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 21/04/12
Serbia ranks 13th in the world in terms of suicides. [Nada Bozhic/SETimes]
Five suicide attempts in two days in Belgrade earlier this month spurred a widespread debate about the impact on society of an increasing number of desperate people, as well as the options available to help them.
Serbia is 13th in the world according to the number of suicides per capita; the 1,400 suicides annually are more than double the rate reported in the 1970s.
This upward trend, however, applies to most of the region. Greece was recently jolted by public suicides and data from its health ministry suggested a 40% increase in the first five months of 2011, compared to the year before.
Even in smaller and socially conservative countries like Kosovo, the police told SETimes there is an increase in suicides and attempts this year, compared to the 368 last year.
Experts argue the trend is due mainly to the worsening economic crisis, rising unemployment and related family and social problems, including mental illness.
Most bloggers in Serbia agree, but add the suicides are a serious signal to authorities that for a significant number of people, modern life, amid the pressure of harsh economic realities, has increasingly become unmanageable and meaningless.
"Since the 1990s, no politician who assumed power has killed themselves. But they killed in all of us our desire to live to the extent that the people in their best years easily end their lives," Milos said.
"The situation that the politicians created, with their war profiteer friends, the tycoons, continue to destroy our future regardless of whether they are in power or in opposition," Milos concluded.
Yet, there are others who blame the individuals themselves contemplating suicide.
"Slackers always blame the crises. Nobody wants to be at least a little bit self-critical. First, the Turks were to blame for everything, then the Austro-Hungarians, then the communists and now democracy and Tadic … Until when? ... Have you ever heard the saying: 'Winners always have a solution, losers a justification'?" Dragana said.
Logos disagreed, arguing the huge socio-political problems easily open the 'Pandora's box' in many whose psyche can easily be wounded and become unbalanced.
"If the social conditions are better, the number of suicides would be smaller. But shifting blame to those who attempt suicide is insulting our intelligence and is an act of not caring for people in general," Logos said.
Serbia's Ombudsman Sasa Jankovic told SETimes the country is in urgent need of a law on mental illness.
"The consciousness of those who turn their heads away ... has to be changed, because the dignity of mentally ill people must be preserved," Jankovic said.
The overall negative impact on society and the broader economy lies in the fact that businessmen also commit suicide in greater numbers. The Serbian media extensively covered one prominent member of the business community, Milan Zukanovic, who reportedly killed himself at age 60 because neither he personally nor his construction firm Koling could repay a loan worth tens of millions of euros.
"I wonder why? When the successful businessmen kill themselves, what remains for us not so successful?" zlotvoric asked rhetorically.
"The state owed him but it blocked his accounts because he did not put value added tax, since he was waiting for the state to repay his debt. Try to sue the state and you will not be able to open a street stand," Vlada said, describing some of the pressures businessmen face in post-transition societies.
Srdjan Dragojevic, a movie director and clinical psychologist, told SETimes a potential solution is in transparent journalism and what he called "direct reporting" about reality. Dragojevic too argued the responsibility is on the tycoons who privatised hundreds of state-owned enterprises, leaving hundreds of thousands of people on the street, without jobs and prospects.
"Suicide is a dark and eerie theme that must cause anger in every person. A good number of the suicides, which are increasingly frequent in Serbia, should be called by their true name: these are, in fact, brutal, cold-blood murders," Dragojevic said.