January 20, 2009 / 4:08 PM / in 11 years

Crisis-hit Russians look to psychiatrists for help

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s leading psychiatric institute has seen a four-fold increase in callers looking for advice since the start of the global financial crisis, its director said on Tuesday.

The Serbsky Institute, best known for incarcerating Soviet-era dissidents, is helping the government tackle the growing problem by rolling out a nationwide network of “anti-crisis centers” to treat mental illness.

Russia has been hit hard by the global crisis with the stock market losing more than 70 percent of its value and the price of the country’s key export, oil, falling from $147 to $34 per barrel.

Nationwide figures are not yet available, but the number of out-patients at the Moscow-based institute has grown between 10 and 20 percent since the crisis began, institute director Tatyana Dmitriyeva told journalists on Tuesday.

“A month ago it was just occasional individuals... But soon I think that half the people who ask for help will have problems related to the crisis,” she said.

The value of the rouble plunged nearly 7 percent last week, raising difficult memories of devaluations that ravaged the economy after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and again in 1998.

Russians, Dmitriyeva said, are particularly at risk because “they are extremely sensitive to their own failure.”

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

“The Russian Ivan feels more responsibility to his family and to his self, for how he could fail and let his family down. That is why there are more suicides in Russia,” Dmitriyeva said.

At least two businessmen in Russia have left suicide notes saying they took their lives as a result of the current crisis, she said.

Writing by Conor Humphries; Editing by Matthew Jones

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