Note: the numbers next to each country is the suicide rate – the number of people who commit suicide in a year out of every 100,000 people.
#10. Slovenia 21.9
As you’ll see throughout this list, communist countries don’t exactly keep their citizens happy. Slovenia was annexed by the Axis powers in World War II, and became a founding member of Yugoslavia following the war. When the country finally became independent and democratic in 1992, things began to improve. The suicide rate declined and the economy picked up. However, the global recession of the late 2000s hit Slovenia especially hard, and the European country’s progress was dealt a serious setback. The struggling economy is likely the main reason Slovenia is still in the top ten.
#9. China 22.2
Suicide rates are hard to track in China, because the government likely lowers the numbers. Several groups have conducted studies which place the rate closer to 30, which would put China third in the world. But, we have no choice but to use the official statistics released by the Chinese government. Female suicide rates actually outnumber that of males. In fact, China has the one of the highest female suicide rates in the world. However, both genders feel the intense pressure put on them by society. Another leading contributor is the horrendous work conditions in many factories.
#8. Latvia 22.9
On the surface, it seems there should be very little suicide in Latvia. The country became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991, through a revolt so peaceful it is known as the “singing revolution.” Following its independence, it posted the highest economic growth of all EU. Even though the country was hard hit by the global recession, it has already recovered, and is Europe’s fasting growing country again. So what leads to the suicides? The country is still dealing with the after-effects of communism, and the government has been shown to be corrupt in several instances. Women have also been largely discriminated against.
#7. Japan 23.8
The Japanese have had a long history of honorable suicides, going all the way back to the days of the samurais, and most famously including the kamikazes during World War II. This still shows in modern times, as suicide is viewed as acceptable by the Japanese, and sometimes even honorable. Lately, the suicide rate has surged, as the depression rate has increased as well. The loss of a job is listed as one of the highest reasons, and so is the factor of hardships in life. Aokigahara is the most common location for suicides. The forested area at the base of Mt. Fuji sees nearly 100 suicides every year.
#6. Hungary 24.6
Hungary may be in the top ten, but the country’s suicide rates have actually nearly halved since the fall of communism. In 1984, Hungary had the highest rate in history with 46.1. This is still a record to this day. Its problems can be traced back to World War I, when the country, previously a powerhouse, lost 70% of its territory. It was a Fascist regime until 1989, and since then, conditions have improved. Now, Hungary is viewed as one of the economic powers of its region, and is one of the popular tourist destinations in the world.
#5. Belarus 25.3
Despite declaring independence from the Soviet Union in 1990, Belarus still has close relations with Russia, and President Alexander Lukashenko has gone against the people’s wishes since the independence, and continued the Soviet-era policies. He has remained in power by violently intimidating his opponents, and oppressing the citizens of Belarus. When that has failed, the elections have simply been rigged to keep Lukashenko in power. No wonder Belarus has such a high suicide rate.
#4. Kazakhstan 25.6
A 70% Islamic nation, Kazakhstan has struggled since it declared independence from, you guessed it, the Soviet Union in 1991. The country has only had one president in post-Soviet times, and President Nazarbayev wins his elections with 95% of the votes. Sounds a little suspicious to me. Despite calling itself a republic, Kazakhstan is known as an authoritarian regime. The country’s economic progress was severely curtailed by the global recession in the late 2000s, and religious freedom has been practically removed from non-Muslims by the Kazakh government.
#3. Guyana 26.4
In Guyana, the leading cause of death for 15-24 year-olds is suicide, a shocking statistic. The leading reasons are depression and domestic disputes. In the eastern Berbice region, the rate is around 50, higher than any country in the world. The government is taking steps to try and control the problem, with hotlines being installed on phones, and police trying to help prevent young adults from taking their own life. Unfortunately, suicide is already synonymous with Guyana, after the 1978 massive Jonestown incident, where 914 people took their own lives, after being told to by Jim Jones.
#2. South Korea 31.2
The leading cause of death for those under 40 in South Korea is suicide. The rate has doubled in the last ten years. In 2009, former President Roh Moo-hyun committed suicide by jumping off a cliff, after being involved in a bribery scandal. Many other famous South Koreans have committed suicide; including millionaires, pop singers, and professional soccer players. Why does South Korea have such a problem with suicide? Nobody seems to have a definitive answer. The economy is surging, compared to most other Asian countries. Some suggest young Koreans are joining internet pacts, and it is a fad. But that seems unlikely to affect the national suicide rate so drastically.
#1. Lithuania 34.1
And the dishonorable title of the country with the highest suicide rate in the world goes to Lithuania. Yet another country to declare independence from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, it has struggled to make the transition from communism to capitalism. The suicide rate has doubled over the last ten years, and it has been described as an “epidemic.” The economy isn’t a problem; its actually surging compared to other Baltic countries. Locals say the government is doing nothing about the suicide rate, as a recent bill was shelved. When citizens are caught attempting suicide, they are taken to hospital, but released that same night. Often, they will go back and attempt suicide the next night. It seems that Lithuania’s problem is that they are just trying to ignore the suicides, and that approach obviously isn’t working.