Helpline targets desperate entrepreneurs in Italy

Mon Apr 16, 2012 11:09am EDT
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By Lisa Jucca

MONTEBELLUNA, Italy (Reuters) - In Italy's wealthy northern Veneto region, a new helpline is advising struggling entrepreneurs to kill their businesses before they kill themselves.

This deeply Catholic part of Italy, where work is an article of faith, is home to nearly half a million small companies and workshops, one for every 10 inhabitants and one of the highest business densities in Europe.

The euro zone debt crisis came as a bitter shock after the boom of the 1980s. More than 300 people took their lives in this region between Lake Garda, the Alps and the Venetian Lagoon in 2010, the latest state data show.

"If you concentrate all your energy and efforts on a business activity, a financial failure easily becomes a personal failure," said Pietro Muraro, who oversees the Life Auxilium (Life Help) support project for entrepreneurs set up by small business association Confartigianato last month.

While the Life Auxilium project remains a local initiative, the worrying trend in suicides has prompted Italian politicians and national media to call for a free helpline nationwide.

But whereas the number of suicides in Italy as a whole increased by two percent in 2010, in Veneto they were 16 percent up.

Regional business associations say that trend has continued and that dozens of those who have taken their lives in the past three years have been entrepreneurs crushed by a combination of frozen bank loans, late client payments and high taxes.

"In Veneto, work is the essence of life and entrepreneurial activity is almost always a family affair," said Muraro, a psychologist and co-director of Veneto-based therapy centre Eidos.   Continued...