The people live in rural areas in a rather colder part of the world. Sometimes, the cold is so severe that ice forms on the inside walls. It is common for men to arise early in the mornng, reach for a bottle of liquor and use it as a way of trying to cope with the unrelenting poverty and lack of jobs in their environemnt. Although its economy has experienced a boom since joining the European Union in 2004, poverty is still an important component of rural life. The people of Lithuania have been ranked by the World Health Orlganization as number one in the world for the highest amount off recorded suicides last year at 42 for every 100,000 inhabitants.
A significant portion of those resorting to suicide comes from elderly members of society who have witnessed dramatic changes in their lives as a result of ceasing to be part of the Soviet Union and now belonging to the European Union which has sparked economic advances in urban areas. The nation most probably lacks social services and sufficient mental health personnel who have training working with suicide prevention as well as dealing with needs of the elderly.
One of the most under reported stories in American politics is the work of the Democratic Congress to reform treatment of veterans that became a national scandal of the Bush administration. Several bills have been passed to extend assistance to veterans in need of counseling and to protect family members who must leave their jobs to care for a wounded veteran. On Tuesday, Congress passed a suicide prevention bill to confront problems arising from ever increasing evidence that many veterans are resorting to suicide. According to Congressman Bob Filner, chair of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, “as many Vietnam veterans have now committed suicide as died in the original war. That’s over 58,000.” The new bill requires mental health training for VA staff, screen suicide risk factors for veterans who receive VA care, refer at-risk veterans for counseling and treatment, and designate a suicide prevention counselor at each VA medical facility. It also allocates funds for out-reach programs to families.
These obviously necessary steps should have been taken years ago. A bill passed in 2007 about veterans who have been dying for years is a sad commentary on how this nation assists its veterans.