Greece and the Eurozone
A Eurozone and Greek flag wave in front of the Parthenon in Athens. Greece\'s economy could lie in ruins if a deal with creditors is not struck soon Reuters/John Kolesidis

Suicide rates in Greece are now the highest in Europe, with experts attributing the rise to the county's economic crisis and increasing unemployment.

Suicide rates in Greece have soared 40 percent compared to last year, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Health.

Before the financial crisis took hold of the country three years ago, Greece actually had the lowest suicide rate in Europe at 2.8 per 100,000 inhabitants.

These figures have now doubled and are now the highest on the continent, with Greece also seeing an increase in attempted suicides. These statistics have coincided with the country's financial meltdown and spiralling unemployment.

Suicide carries a particularly strong stigma in Greece compared to the rest of Europe. The Greek Orthodox Church forbids funerals for anyone who was believed to have committed suicide, leading many families to disguise suicide deaths as accidents.

"It's never just one thing, but almost always debts, joblessness, the fear of being fired are cited when people phone in to say they are contemplating ending their lives," said Eleni Beikari, a psychiatrist at the non-governmental organisation, Klimaka, which runs a 24-hour suicide hotline.

"Most come from women aged between 30 and 50 and men between 40 and 45 despairing over economic problems.

"In my experience it's the men, suffering from hurt dignity and lost pride, who are most serious," said Beikari, speaking to the Guardian.

Suicide rates have risen all across Europe since the financial crisis began, according to a study published in the medical journal The Lancet. Ireland, another country which has been struggling, also showed an increase in suicide rates by 13 per cent.

"In the pre-2004 EU, we see that suicides increased both before and during periods when unemployment rose, at a time of significant economic insecurity across Europe," said Dr David Stuckler, writing in The Lancet.

"Greater attention to health and health-care access is needed to ensure that the Greek crisis does not undermine the ultimate source of the country's wealth, its people."