Last week, two families were found dead by cyanide poisoning in Turkey’s southern province of Antalya. Since both families had financial difficulties, in public debates these tragic incidents were mostly regarded as an outcome of the recent economical crisis and wrong policies of the ruling Justice and Development (AKP) government.  

“To analyze a suicide without knowing the individual case is dangerous and also unethical”, says psychiatrist Agah Aydın. Yet after the death by cyanide poisoning of four middle aged siblings in Istanbul, everyone rushed to accuse someone. 

Apparently, the Yetişkin family was in heavy debt, unavaible to pay their bills. Oppositional parties put the blame on the government’s economic policies and the economic crisis taking its death toll.  

Pro-governmentand Islamist media preferred to explain the tragic incident to the family owning a Richard Dawkins book: They were atheists, no pious Muslim would do “such an awful thing”. 

A columnist for the daily Sabah insisted that the only employed person in the family, the elder sister Oya, who worked as a model for an arts faculty students had a substantial income. 

This, of course, was ungrounded because not evenfaculty professors have incomes as high as claimed, many lacking basic rights of employment. 

Then, another cyanide posioning of a family of four in Antalya shook the country. Apparently, the father killed his two children aged 5 and 9, and wife. He left a note citing financial difficulties.

It is a fact that poverty and violence can lead to depression and in some cases, suicides. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 70 percent of suicides in the world occur in countries with low and middle incomes.   

Turkey generally does not rank high in suicide rates. One reason is religion; in Islam suicide is a sin. Culture and family ties also are among strong reasons why people refrain from taking their lives according to experts.

However figures show that there is a rise in suicide rates in Turkey. According to Turkey’s statistics authority TÜIK, the number of suicide cases were 3,161 in 2018. 

Between 2002-2012, around 2,000 suicides per year were recorded. After 2012, the average rose to 3,000 per year. 

According to Professor Daron Acemoğlu of the MIT, Turkey’s “high quality” economic growth started to cease in 2006. After that, the economic growth was “low quality”: Not ensuring productivity, unemployment rate, relying heavily on credit consumption and construction sector rather than investments and technology. 

The economic crisis in increasingly started to affect living conditions of the Turks this year. Unemployment rates hit a record with %13.9. In 2019, more than 5 million young people aged between 15-29 are reported not having a job or a place in the education system. 

It’s important to note that the neo-liberal lifestyle which was introduced and promoted by the AKP government resulted in more people migrating to big cities, living in crowded little apartments and aiming for a better life, whereas institutions were weakened. 

The society does not only suffer from economical crisis and neo-liberalism, but also a harsh transformation from a hybrid democracy to a more authoritarian state, where basic rights and rule of law are undermined on a daily basis, where institutions are weakened and wiped out. 

The coup attempt in 2016 and its aftermath is taking its toll on the society, as well as the refugee flow and military operations in northern Syria. Turkey now ranks 152nd among 163 countries in the Global Peace Index.

Political leaders favoring hate speech add up to a constant state of war and violence. 

Maybe it’s impossible and wrong to name one person or policy responsible for suicide and depression rates, but sociopolitical and economic factors surely play a role in the rise of the recent tragic events.