Lithuania: a Small Country with the Highest Suicide Rates in Europe
Lithuania is a small country in northeastern Europe and one of the three Baltic States. The nation gained independence from the Soviet Union only in 1990, significantly impacting its culture and people. Despite its size and dark history, the country’s economy ranks 79th among major economies in the world. Unfortunately, the country has been facing an issue of suicide that is linked to mental health problems in Lithuania.
The Mast of the Issue
The country’s suicide rate is the highest in Europe, with around 23 suicides per 100,000 residents each year, compared to the European average of around 12.
According to National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in California, mental health illnesses can cause and contribute to poverty. Left untreated, they can lead to poor quality of life, incarceration, substance misuse, homelessness, disability and suicide.
The main reasons for suicide are losing the meaning of life, enduring circumstantial challenges such as financial problems, the death of a loved one and, most importantly, mental illnesses. According to Eurostat statistical data, about 7% of Lithuanians experience chronic depression. Unfortunately, Lithuanians tend to avoid reaching out to mental health specialists, so the number may not be totally accurate.
How Hospitals Manage Mental Health in Lithuania
According to the National Library of Medicine, there are some positive aspects of Lithuanian health care, but minuses are also noticeable.
Currently, these aspects are lacking:
- Public-based accommodation
- Mental and vocational rehabilitation
- Effective programs to improve the psychological wellness of kids in the community
- Assistance for vulnerable families
Mental Health Issues Among Genders
Although men who live in rural areas and are less educated commit suicide more often, women attempt to take their own lives more frequently. During the coronavirus pandemic, Lithuanian women also reported feeling worse emotionally than men. This issue in Lithuania and other countries was linked to unequal household responsibilities, which made enduring the pandemic more challenging for women. Additionally, suicide rates among prisoners and detainees are several times higher than the national average.
Children and the Unfortunate Situation
According to a WHO survey, Lithuania is one of the European countries with the highest rates of bullying in schools, affecting almost one in three Lithuanian teenagers. It’s worth noting that more boys than girls reported both being bullied and bullying others.
Fortunately, Lithuania has recognized the issue of bullying and there are numerous programs focused on its prevention. Teachers and parents are encouraged to have discussions with their children about the topic. Additionally, “Vaikų linija” (Eng. “Child Line”), a hotline for young people seeking emotional support, has been operating since 1997. Its activity is based on voluntary work, with about 400 volunteer consultants. In 2021, volunteers answered 105,785 calls from children, which accounted for 72% of the total number of calls received.
Although young people can call and chat about their hardships, the volunteers of the NGO claim that most children express thoughts of suicide.
The Good News
Although the coronavirus pandemic, high inflation rates and the ongoing war in Ukraine have negatively affected mental health in Lithuania, specialists still see a light at the end of the tunnel. According to a survey by the Lithuanian company “Spinter Tyrimai,” the mental health among adults in Lithuania returned to pre-pandemic levels last November, with 60.4% of people reporting good psychological well-being. This was likely due to Lithuania’s loosened restrictions on human contact.
Since seeking psychological healthcare can be expensive, Lithuanians can obtain long-term help at crisis centers. Women in need of short-term emotional help can turn to “Pagalbos moterims linija” (English: “Helpline for Women”), while men can seek assistance from “Vyrų linija” (English: “Men’s Line”). Emotional support can be obtained through phone calls, emails, or anonymous online chats.
“Pagalbos moterims linija” has been working since 2003 and receives over 26,000 calls yearly. In contrast, “Vyrų linija” started its activity only in 2020 when mental health and well-being among people decreased. During the first two months, specialists from this helpline provided over 200 hours of consultation to men.
These efforts and trends are suggestive of progress and a more positive future where Lithuanians have access to support systems that make them less likely to resort to suicide.
– Agnė Jankauskaitė