Iran's suicide rate has climbed 17% in two years, with 10 Iranians on average taking their lives every day, a government official announced Wednesday.
Ahmad Shaja'i, the country’s chief of forensic medicine, told the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) that suicides increased nearly 5% since last year, with 952 Iranians taking their lives during the first quarter of the Iranian year, which began in March, compared with 870 the same time last year. More than 70% of the suicides were men.
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Mehrdad Khonsari, a former Iranian diplomat, told The Media Line that suicide rates in Iran have always been higher than in the West, but that the aggravated economic and social conditions may have contributed to the new peak, mainly among the country's youth.
"Iranians don't live a normal life," Khonsari told The Media Line. "There are barriers to interaction between youth, forced marriages, and many young couples must live with their parents because they can't afford housing."
Iran's population of 71.5 million has doubled since 1975, leaving its
young population to struggle with the unofficial unemployment rates
estimated to be as high as 30%. However, Iran has greatly invested in
its public health sector over the past 20 years; and with an average
life expectancy of 72, it tops most countries in the region.
"The government seems intent on crushing any sign of joy and happiness
among Iranians," Potkin Azarmehr, an Iranian blogger and opposition
activist living in London, told The Media Line. "There used to be room
for people to do as they wished at least inside their homes, but now
even that is taken away from them."
The Iranian morality police arrested 17 teenagers last week in the
southern port city of Bandar Abbas for staging a water fight in a public
park. Azarmehr said that strict government supervision left Iran's
youth hopeless. "Every Iranian knows someone who got in trouble with
the morality police," he said.
But a rise in suicide rates was reported by rich countries as well. The
US, Ireland and South Korea have all reported an increase in suicides
over the past decade. According to the United Nations World Health
Organization, suicide is among the 20 leading causes of death
internationally, with approximately one million annual cases.
The best-known Iranian to recently take his life was Alireza Pahlavi,
the youngest son of the deposed Shah of Iran. Pahlavi was found dead in
his Boston apartment on January 4, eight years after his sister died in a
London hotel from drug overdose.
“Like millions of young Iranians, he too was deeply disturbed by all the
ills fallen upon his beloved homeland, as well as carrying the burden
of losing a father and a sister in his young life,” his brother Reza
Pahlavi wrote on his website.
Azarmehr said political upheavals in Iran have also had a detrimental
affect on people's mental health. The so-called Green Revolution, which
followed the contested presidential elections of June 2009, was
violently crushed by Ahamdinejad's forces, leaving many Iranians
hopeless about change, he said.
"After the Green Movement was crushed, people feel disbanded," Azamehr
said. "They feel they can no longer change the regime, and things are
just getting worse."
According to Iranian data, men differ from women in their choice of
suicide methods. Iranian men usually hang themselves or use a lethal
injection, while women tend to overdose on drugs or burn themselves to