Simply put, times are tough. What if times just keep getting tougher? I believe a majority of us can agree that better times are to come. We can look at several issues we face in different settings and discuss the implications that stem from it. However, the scary part of making certain decisions with good intentions can sometimes create a ripple effect that ends up hurting people. Throughout the European Union, the financial crisis surrounding debt has not only acted as a massive depressant on the European people, but also represents a growing gap between the rich and poor.
I recently read an article by Barbie Latza Nadeau, titled, “Europe’s ‘White Widows’” about the rise in suicide rates caused by the EU’s economic crisis. According to the article, Nadeau specifically points out three countries (Greece, Italy, and Spain) where desperate acts of finding employment suddenly spiraled into voluntary life or death measures. Remember when Greece was facing a bailout worth 130 billion euros? As part of Greece’s austerity package, Greek ministers had to prove saving strategies to the EU, which involved “slashing living standards for low-paid workers”. Under Greece’s cabinet and parliament, the standard minimum monthly wage of 751 euros was cut 22% and 32% for those under the age of 25. If this policy stands, then it means that the minimum wage would be 585.78 euros for those over the age of 25 and 510.68 euros for those under the age of 25. As Greece’s unemployment rate looms around 21%, in comparison to 8.2% in the U.S., Nadeau describes how “1,727 [Greek] people have killed themselves (or attempted to do so) following the financial strains of the austerity measures since 2009”. Nadeau goes on to explain how there was a time when Greece used to be a country with the lowest suicide rate in Europe.
Spain is another example of a country in the EU under economic turmoil. Spain’s unemployment rate for people under the age of 25 is now over 50%. This is a ridiculously high statistic that Nadeau also mentions in her article. According to Bloomberg, the minimum wage for Spain in 2011 was “641.40 euros”, which is lower than Greece’s standard minimum wage of 751 euros before the cut. Although the entire EU must make tough decisions, the real reason I am writing this post is to expose why tragic suicide rates are increasing in Europe and how Nadeau’s article provides a different perspective into the current economic crises in the EU.
Nadeau begins the article about “Marco Turrini”, a “41-year-old publicity agent” from Brescia, Italy who was “out of work for more than a year and under pressure from tax collectors”. One day, Turrini “picked up his 4-year-old son, Samuele, and 14-month-old daughter, Benedetta, and threw them out of their sixth-floor window”. “He then struggled to push his wife to the same fate. She escaped, but he turned to the window and jumped. He died on impact, but his two young children lived for several long minutes while neighbors tried to save them.” The chilling realization I had after reading this story was that it was not the first, nor last time a story like this would occur. According to Professor David Stuckler, “The main reason for the rise in suicides is the recession and now austerity–both making hard times more difficult and reducing funding for mental-health services”. I definitely agree with Nadeau as she explains the rise in suicide rates as “a symbol of personal pain for many, and a sad inspiration for others.” The EU must recognize that the austerity is doing more harm to the people by reducing social mobility, labor, and access to resources.
I’ll try to add more to this post when I have more time. Overall, you should read Nadeau’s article from Newsweek when you get the chance.