Alarm at Rising Suicide Rate in Armenia
|Publisher||Institute for War and Peace Reporting|
|Publication Date||17 June 2011|
|Cite as||Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Alarm at Rising Suicide Rate in Armenia, 17 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e0070ff2.html [accessed 22 May 2013]|
A worrying rise in the suicide rate in Armenia is coupled with a trend for younger people to take their own lives.
Public discussion of the issue intensified after the death of Norayr Torosyan, a 17-year-old boy who took his own life in the capital Yerevan on June 8.
The 592 actual and attempted suicides recorded last year represented a 20 per cent increase on the 498 cases the previous year.
While the official figures show that around half of suicides fall within an age range of 30 to 65, and another 28 per cent involve people older than that, experts note a worrying downward slide.
According to Kamo Vardanyan, a psychologist who runs the Ayg Psychological Services group, "From the 1950s to the end of the century, more than half of suicides involved people over 45, but since the start of the 21st century, it has shifted more to younger people under 45."
Certain social groups that are marginalised in one way or another are seen as particularly vulnerable – the elderly, adolescents, soldiers, prisoners, and gay and lesbian people.
"Teenagers and elderly people are commonly in need of attention," forensic psychologist Elda Grin said. "Adolescents are highly sensitive, and [may become] helpless, desperate and alienated from society, so that they see suicide as the only way out of psychological crisis."
Grin added that members of Armenia's conscript army were prone to suicide because of the "savage customs and unwritten laws" that made military service a brutalising experience.
The statistics indicate that economic hardship is a major factor in suicide attempts. Over 57 per cent of attempted and actual suicides last year involved unemployed people and a further 18 per cent were pensioners.
"The most marked, visible factors leading to suicide are the social problems that face people at every turn," Karine Nalchajyan, a psychologist at Armenia's national teacher-training university, said.
Nalchajyan cited studies showing that countries with high unemployment levels record rising numbers of suicides.
"In addition, in countries going through economic collapse, suicide is widespread not only among the poor but among the well-off as well," she said.
Vardanyan said an additional factor that tipped some people over the edge was the depiction of suicide on screen.
"Suicide is contagious, so to prevent this, we need to ban the showing of scenes of youth suicide in television shows and films, and also attempts by characters to kill themselves," he said.
However, Vardanyan warned against making sweeping generalisations about the causes of suicide before more research was done.
"I only wish someone could give me the [right] specialists, and we could develop a joint multifaceted programme to prevent suicide and provide the correct kind of psychological support," he said, adding that the Armenian government was not funding this kind of work.
Armenia currently has no clinics – either state-funded or private – to help people who have made suicide attempts. The health ministry acknowledges that it has no specific programmes to provide support or counselling to those vulnerable to suicide.
Victoria Aleksanyan is a freelance journalist. Sara Khojoyan, IWPR Armenia country director, also contributed material for this report.