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Why high suicide rates in Arctic Russia?

Norway's Arctic University in Tromso

Norway’s Arctic University in Tromso, location for many international encounters over the last week

Back at DW headquarters in Bonn after returning from Arctic Frontiers in Tromso at the weekend, I am sorting out notes and interviews with a wide range of experts on Arctic issues from all over the world.

One interview I would like to share with you here on the Ice Blog is a talk I had with Dr Yuri Sumarokov from the  Northern State Medical University in Archangelsk in north-west Russia. It is the northernmost medical school in Russia and has a special focus on research into Arctic medicine and issues affecting the health of people in the Arctic.

People in the Arctic regions of Russia have a much higher suicide rate than in other parts of the country. The rate is higher again amongst indigenous people. Sumarakov, himself a medical doctor, shared some insights into the ongoing research with me. The topic is not new and certainly not limited to Russia. It seems though to be a topic that is not talked about enough, especially amongst politicians – and in the media. So let’s make a start. Please have a listen. There is plenty of food for thought and I for one feel motivated to find out a little more:

P1050759

Yuri Sumarokov, MD, is Head of the Dept. of International Cooperation at Northern State Medical University (NSMU), Russia.

Date

January 28, 2014 | 1:47 pm

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  • [Marked as spam by Antispam Bee | Spam reason: Local DB Spam]
    I am in the final stages of finishing my PhD at the University of Tromsø, where Arctic Frontiers is an annual event. Tromsø is at a latitude of nearly 70 degrees north. I moved to the Arctic from Baltimore, Maryland and still after almost 15 years, I am not used to it. The lack of sunlight from November to January is one of the main contributing factors to this suicide rate. People who are not normally depressed, become severely affected by the lack of sunlight. In addition to the long cold winters it is also dark. Add to that the difficulty in finding work, the high prices on food, the difficulty in finding affordable housing, and you have a socio-ecological scenario hard to tackle. To remain positive is a daily challenge and requires a core of steel. This affects everyone – even those people who were born and raised in this part of the world. Not enough attention is given to the depression caused by the lack of light and the harsh weather conditions. In addition, though politicians are quick to promise financial support for enhancing infrastructures in the high-north, the new opportunities for good jobs and a better lifestyle are very slow to materialize. Doctors are very quick to prescribe anti-depressives but this is like putting a bandaid on a slice through a major artery.

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