Two more Czechs decided on Wednesday to take their lives in the most dramatic of manners, committing suicide by dousing themselves in gasoline and then setting themselves on fire. One died at the scene, another is fighting for his life at a Prague hospital. Meanwhile a shocked public has been forced to ask itself "why". What possible circumstances could drive someone at the height of their youth to take such a desperate measure?
Four suicides by burning and a fifth attempt within the last month has left many Czechs bewildered. The first incident, highly visible and highly publicised, took place on March 6th, when 18-year-old Zdenek Adamec doused himself in gas before a number of witnesses on a popular Prague square. Left behind: a suicide note lamenting the sorry state of the world, decrying everything from over-population to pollution to war. Four more suicides followed, but not all were executed as a form of protest. Still, the repeated means of self-destruction has raised many questions over what exactly is going on. We spoke to Petr Goldmann, of Prague's Bohnice Psychiatric Hospital:
"Basically, suicide exists and always will. More conspicuous in this case is the method of suicide chosen. We know from history that suicides can set off chains of imitators, basically, a copy-cat effect. I think we can assume this was the case in the series of suicides here. It's important to note that they chose a highly visible method - a more common form would have lost the message of being an appeal to the public."
Do we all, in a certain sense, bear collective guilt for this sort of drastic action?
"I think that that would be a mistake. There will always be people around us who are unhappy with the state of things. We can only ask ourselves if we contribute to poor conditions, and ensure that society is not in such terrible shape as if it were under a dictatorship."
Finally, is there any way that Czech society can prevent this from happening again?
"I am afraid it is an extremely difficult situation - I can not imagine concrete steps. The spring period always sees a rise in the number of suicides. Also, the Czech Republic has a higher level of suicide than the average world standard. We're not quite sure exactly why, but spring always sees a rise in depression.. It's a paradox, considering the beauty of spring, that neurosis and suicide should reach their peak at this time of the year."