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Reducing Suicide: A National Imperative
1997 (Kryzhanovskaya and Pilyagina, 1999). However, during Perestroika in Russia (1984 to 1990), suicide rates declined by approximately 32 percent for males and 19 percent for females (Varnik et al., 1998). The decrease in female suicide was the same as seen in the rest of Europe, whereas the male decrease in suicide rate was 3.8 times that observed in other European countries. This large decrease in Russian male suicides coincided with a national, multi-pronged anti-alcoholism campaign over the same period. In this way, social circumstances interacted to provide increased hope for economic prosperity and social freedoms, with significantly reduced access to alcohol, creating a period associated with the greatest decrease in male suicide rates across the globe in the last 20 years (Wasserman and Varnik, 2001).
Suicide rates have declined in the Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) since 1986, which marked the onset of turbulent social change (Varnik et al., 1994). Rancans and colleagues (2001) determined that the rapid swings in the suicide rate in Latvia between 1980 and 1998 could not be explained by the changing employment rate, a sudden drop in the GDP, or a rapid increase in first-time alcohol psychosis. Makinen (2000) concludes that, while suicide and social processes in Eastern Europe during recent periods of social change are clearly linked, there remain complexities regarding the mechanisms and the specific aspects of the social change that may affect suicide rates.
LaVecchi et al. (1994) analyzed World Health Organization data from 1955–1989 for 57 countries and suggested that trends are decreasing in many parts of the less developed world including Latin America and Asia (with the exception of Sri Lanka). Others contend that suicide rates have increased in less developed countries or among particular segments of the population in these countries (Makinen, 1997). For example, the rate of suicide in Sri Lanka has risen from modest levels to one of the highest in the world over the last 50 years (Marecek, 1998). In Singapore, the last 10 years shows a greater disparity in male and female suicide rates. Prior to this time, the gender gap had diminished, and the current discrepancy appears to result from decreasing rates among women rather than any real change in male suicide levels (Parker and Yap, 2001). Micronesia witnessed a spike among adolescents and youth in the 1970s and 1980s. Researchers attributed this “epidemic” to vast social changes associated with modernization and globalization, which resulted in the breakdown of traditional values and practices and the development of “normlessness” or anomie, especially among adolescents (Rubinstein, 1983). In Western Samoa, for example, the rise in suicide rates since 1970 has been hypothesized to result from rising expectations among adolescents in the context of fading opportunities due to Western Samoa’s peripheral position in the world economy (Macpherson and Macpherson, 1987). In China, most re-