Outside the shop run by José Miguel Domingo, who hanged himself when he was due to be evicted. G. M.
Last week the suicide of a Granada man just an hour before he was due to be evicted highlighted the direct relationship between the economic crisis and the growing number of people driven to taking their own lives.
José Miguel Domingo was about to lose his home and his business. His bank had taken action after he defaulted on the repayments of the 240,000 euro mortgage he had taken out to buy his sister’s share of the two properties they had inherited. The legal team that turned up to evict him came across a forensic doctor and a body.
The case of this 54-year-old shows the level of desperation reached by many citizens affected by the crisis.
In the province of Malaga the suicide rate has shot up in recent years. According to forensic statistics, in just a decade the figure has gone from 70 cases (in 2002) to 172 in 2011. So far this year 164 people have taken their own lives in the province.
The director of Malaga’s Legal Medicine Institute (IML), Dr José Caba, stated that the economic crisis is a factor in many of the suicides his department deals with.
“The crisis leads them to desperation, as the victims feel totally unprotected,” pointed out the forensic doctor, who considers that the statistics have raised the alarm at what should now be considered a “health problem”.
Now suicide is the most common cause of unnatural death, ten times greater than homicide and four times the road death toll.
“That is without considering that some suicides are camouflaged as road accidents,” pointed out Dr Lucas Giner, a member of the Spanish Psychiatry Society, who is critical of the lack of prevention programmes.
“It’s a problem that is not being dealt with and, however, it is much more frequent than traffic accident fatalities.”
Forensics investigating suicide cases are finding that situations like that of José Miguel are more and more frequent. Financial ruin that leads to personal ruin.
“We are finding cases of young business owners who have enormous debts and no income; people who have enjoyed a high standard of living but now can’t see a way out of the crisis, or even how to deal with it. These are people with no history of physical or mental illness that might explain the suicide,” said the IML director. It is this type of case that reveals the financial drama that is behind many suicides.
Nevertheless Dr Giner added that there is “nearly always something else” that combines with financial difficulties to drive a victim to suicide.
“A lot of people have economic problems and don’t kill themselves. There is always something that that stretches a life-changing event (job loss, debt or eviction) to suicide: that is mental illness. It might be depression or another pathology but in any case these are problems that can be treated,” said the doctor.
Both the psychiatrist and the forensic agree that attention must be paid to the signals victims send out as a “cry for help”. Dr Giner avised that an emergency warning could come in the form of depressive behaviour, despondency or a simple comment that reveals a total lack of hope.
“The idea that ‘when they say they’re going to do it, they won’t’ is false,” stressed Dr Giner. “The majority of those who say they’re going to do it, don’t. But the majority of those who have done it, said so beforehand.”