Russian mental health rallies after 1990s turmoil

Reuters
Monday, January 22, 2007; 9:20 PM

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's turbulent transition to a capitalist society caused a sharp deterioration in the country's mental health, a leading psychiatrist said on Monday.

But psychological disorders have started to level off in the past few years - a period that coincided with greater political and economic stability under President Vladimir Putin.

Russia has the world's second highest suicide rate after ex-Soviet Lithuania, according to figures from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Zurab Kekelidze, deputy director of Russia's leading psychiatric hospital the Serbsky Institute, said that high rate was due in part to the upheavals Russia had undergone since the 1991 collapse of Communist rule.

"In this period when we are in transition from one society to another, people react worse to stress," Kekelidze told a news conference.

"We have more post-traumatic stress disorder than in countries which have been developing for a long time and suicides are high and this is caused, among other things, by social factors."

"But in the past two to three years we have seen a stabilisation. They (disorders) are not increasing. This means we are having a stabilisation in society."

The average Russian now had more certainty in their lives than in the chaotic 1990s, when people lost their savings overnight and wages were not paid for months at a time, he said.

"For example, ten years ago every scientist planned their activities for one or two years ahead but now we have reached a point where scientists plan their activities five years ahead. That means there is a certain psychological stability."

WHO figures give the number of suicides per 100,000 people in Russia as 70.6 for men and 11.9 for women. By comparison, in Germany the male suicide rate is 20.2. Lithuania leads the league table with 75.6 male suicides.

© 2007 Reuters