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Brosse Street Journal » Features:

Portrait Of A Suicide

By Natia Bilikhodze
Brosse Street Journal
Thursday, December 1 2005
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For 33 years, Kakha Kvarackhelia was with his mother. One day he suddenly decided to leave her in the marshutka … he disappeared. After three days he was found dead. He was found after he apparently jumped from the top of a nine-story building.

The authorities consider it a suicide. Kvarackhelia's mother, even one year later, does not want to believe that her son committed suicide.

"The portrait of a suicide (in Georgia) is often nearly identical. It is commonly a man between the ages of 30 and 50, not mentally ill, who has a family and is unemployed," said George Naneishvili, a professor at the M. Asatiani Research Institute of Psychiatry. His research is one of the first studies on this subject in Georgia and was conducted in the Adjara and Imereti regions of western Georgia.

"Suicide is self-aggression -- the act of self-demolition. Suicide has no age limit," says psychotherapist Nana Jiblashvili. She said that suicide has become more frequent in Georgia in the last 10 years, and that among some teenagers it has become commendable act as they try to imitate each other. She says people who try and fail to commit suicide give many more reasons for their problems than the people who do commit suicide.

"It is a paradox that people who intensively expose their inclination to commit suicide very often do not execute the act," she said. "The person who tries to commit suicide once, but survives, can be expected to try again." She spoke of one case when she treated a patient with therapy, hoping she could influence the patient to change her mind about suicide, but after the treatment was finished the patient committed suicide.

Suicide is one of the major problems in Georgia, agree nongovernmental organizations working on mental issues, but official statistics do not show it as a problem. According to the Georgian State Statistic Department, the suicide rate has actually decreased from 1989 to 2003. Their statistics show 164 suicides in 1989 and 110 in 2003. That 2003 figure includes 25 women and two teenagers.

The Georgian Ministry of Health reports different data. They list 337 suicides in 1997 and 143 in 2003. Using their statistics, the suicide rate is 3.3 per 100,000 population. The highest rate among post-Soviet countries is Latvia (4.4). The rate in Armenia is 2.4 and in Azerbaijan it's 1.4, according to the ministry.

In spite of the fact that there are not many cases reported of teenagers committing suicide, experts says that in Georgia has a problem with suicide among youngsters. "Why does it happens so often with youngsters, at an age when everything seems to be cheerful? The answer is that in this age person is very sensitive," said psychologist Manana Kandelaki. "He or she feels every event, every word -- something said by friends or parents -- may insult him or her. At this age self-esteem decreases, and the question arise: 'Who needs me?' This is the reason they begin using drugs. In many cases, this depression causes suicide."

Manana Sharashidze of the Psychiatrists Association explains the low statistics. "Suicides very often are registered as accidents," she said. "Very often due to the stigma, families hide the suicide facts. For example, if a man kills himself with gun, family members say that the gun was shot by accident. When a suicidal person jumps for a high place and dies from brain trauma, in the official document is written that he died from brains swelling. So the state statistic department gets wrong information from the police and from the medical institutions." 

It is believed that the main reason for any increase in suicide is the hard social-economic environment in the country, which adds to any psychological disorders in a person's life.

According to the Research Institute of Psychiatry, the main reasons for suicidal activity are the low level of living conditions, changes in the routine of life, inability to support a family, and losing the position of leader in a family.

There are cases when patient take antidepressants that caused suicide. "There have been named some antidepressants that are considered as a cause of suicide. But it is difficult to say what causes the suicide -- depression or antidepressants, said Jiblashvili.

The American Association of Suicidology (www.suicidology.org) states on their web site: "A suicide attempt is a clear indication that something is gravely wrong in a person's life. No matter the race or age of the person, how rich or poor they are, it is true that most people who commit suicide have a mental or emotional disorder … many suicide victims suffer from major depression or bipolar (manic-depressive) disorder."

Suicide in Georgia is now considered as a mental health problem. The psychiatrists in former Soviet period came into contact with these problem on in medical clinics, because because social service care did not been exist at the public health level. Experts from the center for social and psychological aid Ndoba (Trust) said that suicides are committed by people with serious mental problems, by people with some mental problems, and by seemingly absolutely healthy persons.

They say that treatment in Georgian is very difficult. In many cases they use psychotherapy. They say that for many patients, pleasant talk is enough.


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