Iran's suicide rate soars, averaging 10 per day

Observers cite government oppression, financial hardship for widespread depression; more than 70% of suicides are men.

August 23, 2011 18:33
3 minute read.

teenager sad shame depression 311. (photo credit: Nir Keidar)


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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 death.

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