The escalating crackdown on fundamental rights and freedoms in an
increasingly repressive regime of Turkey under the autocratic leadership
of president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan might have very well contributed to
the spike in the prevalence of stress, depression and anxiety in Turkish
society, a recent study done by Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has revealed.
Among the polled, 86.3 percent of respondents said they experience
high level of depression, followed by 78.8 percent stating they struggle
with stress and 72.1 percent reporting they tackle with anxiety. The
study that is based a number of self-report questionnaires among Turks
indicated that 65.1 percent participants described themselves as being
unhappy with varying degrees while 34.9 percent considered themselves as
being happy, again on varying levels.
The Turkish government detained nine people in Edirne
province on Thursday as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt
targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement as they were reportedly
attempting to flee to Greece to escape persecution in Turkey.
According to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency,
Turkish police detained nine adults and six children from four families
in Edirne’s Enez district, situated on the Turkish-Greek border. The
nine people, who were teachers and public servants fired by government
decrees under a now-ended state of emergency, were detained by police
and the children were handed over relatives.
Thousands of people have fled Turkey due to a massive witch-hunt
carried out by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government
against sympathizers of the Gülen movement in the wake of a
controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Many have tried to flee
Turkey via illegal means as the government had cancelled the passports
of thousands of people.
Hundreds of thousands of people in Turkey have been the subject of
legal proceedings in the last two years on charges of membership in the
Gülen movement since the coup attempt in July 2016, a Turkish Justice
Ministry official told a symposium on July 19, 2018.
“Legal proceedings have been carried out against 445,000 members of
this organisation,” Turkey’s pro-government Islamist news agency İLKHA quoted Turkish Justice Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Ömer Faruk Aydıner as saying.
Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt
on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch,
the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.
Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having
any role in the failed coup and called for an international
investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt
“a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge
aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state
institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in
Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers,
police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the
Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of
legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.
Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018
that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15,
2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.
That shows the rapid backslide on the rule of law, democratic rights
and fundamental freedoms coupled with the worsening outlook on economy
and increasing violence and terror incidents might have taken a toll on
the psychological well-being of Turkish society. It also reveals the
Turkish government is failing its responsibility in shoring up the
feeling of happiness among Turks especially against the background of
government’s blatant interventions in the individual rights and
Considering that personal happiness is bound to, among others,
individual beliefs, faiths, dreams, ideologies, sensitivities and
perceptions to which no one including authorities is called upon to pass
judgement, stigmatize, vilify and interfere with, Turkish government’s
real or perceived interference to individual choices in Turkey may have
contributed to this worsening picture.
According to the Turkey’s Health Ministry’s statistics, the number of
anti-depression drug use has increased 23.2 percent from 35,4 million
boxes in 2014 to 43,6 million in 2015. In the first nine months of 2016,
the latest available data, this rose to 33,6 million boxes of
anti-depression drugs. It was reported that one in every ten person in
Turkey is using anti-depression drugs. The Health Ministry also
announced on August 5, 2014 that 9,2 million Turks went to hospitals and
clinics to seek a treatment on psychological problems, up from three
million in 2009.
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) submitted a
motion in Parliament on December 10, 2015 asking for the establishment
of an investigation commission to look into rising cases of
psychological disorders. The motion was not debated in Parliament yet.
Similar motion was also submitted on March 1, 2015 by the pro-Kurdish
Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) but that motion was not taken up in the
Parliament before the legislation session completed, killing the motion.
The Turkish government’s unwillingness into investigating root causes
of rising cases of psychological disorders and high usage of
anti-depression drugs defies common sense. It is most likely that the
government does not want to get blamed for this and it rather tries to
sweep the dirt under the rug. The current Islamist regime of Turkey has
been constantly criticized by observers for undermining the personal or
collective enjoyment of life among ethnic and social groups especially
targeting the vulnerable ones in the last couple of years with
relentless persecution of critical groups such the Kurdish political
movement, Alevis and the the Gülen movement.
In the study which aimed to explore the prevalence of mental health
problems and its relationship with happiness, a Turkish version of
Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-42) was used to measure
psychological mood disorders while happiness level was assessed by using
Turkish version of Subjective Happiness Scale. Alongside these two
scales, a sociodemographic questionnaire was created to measure a number
of sociodemographic factors. A total of 358 took part in the study
with the mean age of 36.1 (standard deviation = 9.5).