Suicides increase in Turkey amid pandemic and economic downturn

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A total of 129 people died by suicide in Turkey in April, eight of whom were minors, according to research by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing Turkish media.

CHP deputy Gamze Taşçıer said the youngest person to take their own life was 13 years old. She said they had monitored local media in all 81 provinces to find the numbers because parliamentary questions concerning the issue had been left unanswered.

“According to our research the number of suicides has increased every month, with April being the highest,” said Taşçıer. “This means that if we do not do anything about it, suicide cases will continue to grow.”

According to Taşçıer the exact number of suicides is unknown because they were only able to include cases covered by the media. “Authorities need to get to the root of why people are killing themselves,” she said.

Taşçıer added that depression was apparently widespread in the society. She emphasized that the already deteriorating economic conditions had worsened due to COVID-19 and that many shopkeepers had died by suicide due to financial difficulties and bankruptcy.

Mehmet Gümüş, a shopkeeper in southern Mersin province, took his own life last week shortly after posting on social media that his shop had been empty for days.

Erdal Şenözpak, a cafe owner in western İzmir province, also ended his life the same week due to financial difficulties.

Turkey entered a full lockdown last week, which is due to last until May 17. According to the new regulations people will have to stay at home except for essential shopping trips and urgent medical treatment. Travel between cities will require official approval and alcohol sales are being limited. While non-essential shops will be closed, super-markets remain open.

The new regulations have put a tremendous amount of strain on nearly 3 million shopkeepers and day laborers who lost their income. The government was criticized for not introducing an economic support scheme for people who depend on daily wages.

There were a total of seven known cases of suicide related to financial problems in the first week of the lockdown.

According to the most recent research by the CHP science platform, 5,806 cases of suicide that occurred between 2002 and 2019 were related to poverty and financial problems. The data also showed that suicide cases had increased exponentially in the last 20 years.

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