Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday, September 14th, 2009:
Health, suicide, and parties in Helsingborg

What I think:

A few weeks ago, an American author and blogger named William Campbell (no relation to the soup, as far as I know) e-mailed me about a blog project he was working on about healthcare in different countries. Unless you've been living under a large stone on Jupiter, you'll know that this has been a hotly debated issues over the past couple of months. So I e-mailed him my take on healthcare in Canada, the UK, and Sweden (the three countries in which I've lived).

William's blog is called Tome of The Unknown Writer, and his project was called The Health Care Stories Project. Have a browse through it, there's some pretty interesting stuff.

Here's William wearing his favourite green shirt.
Quite a dashing chap wouldn't you say?
Here's an excerpt from my contribution (the bit about Sweden): "In Sweden, healthcare isn't completely free. If you need to see a doctor, you pay up to about 200 Kronor (about $28) per visit. But the costs are capped at 900 Kronor (about $130) for the year. This means that if you need to see a doctor several times over the course of a year, you'll never need to pay more that about $130.

I went to see a dermatologist to get some nasty moles removed. I had to go several times over the course of a few months. The procedure entailed applying some ultra-freezing stuff with a cotton swab to freeze the moles, and they would eventually fall off. I think I had to go about seven or eight times. I was pleasantly surprised when I turned up once and was told that I don't have to pay anymore. I'd thought that I would always have to pay about $28 every time.

It's the same deal with prescriptions. I don't remember the exact amounts, but there's an annual cap of - I think - about $270

You can read the whole piece here, if you're interested. There are some typos though, as I don't tend to be so meticulously careful when writing e-mails, so apologies for that.

A few days ago, I went Helsingborg to do some shopping for a couple of friends newly arrived from New York City. They had just moved a few weeks ago to a small town called Växjö (which is pronounced not one bit like "cheese sandwich"), and it appears that there are certain things that are hard to come by there. So I thought I'd help them out.

On my way through the park, I noticed a load of poles with long white strips of white fabric hanging from them, right behind a large sign which was placed at the edge of the circular area in front of the library, near the fountain. Having no idea as to what this collection of things was supposed to represent, I continued along the path until I saw the sign.
Roughly translated, it says, "September 10th / Suicide Day / We mourn and remember those who chose not to live anymore".

In my mind, this seemed to reinforce and perpetuate the popular notion that suicide is extremely prevalent in Swedish society. Many believe that Sweden has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Indeed, many people I've personally spoken to in Sweden either know, or know someone who knows, someone who has committed suicide.

I just thought it would be a funky photo to share on this blog, but I figured I'd do a bit of googling about the topic as well. It turns out that there are a few different ways of coming up with statistics on suicide rates (comparisons by country). But every single table I found on the subject places Sweden nowhere near the top.

For example, if you look at the Wiki page (List of countries by suicide rate), the latest figures show that Sweden comes in at number 31, below countries such as: Russia, Japan, Belgium, Finland, France, Switzerland, Austria, China, New Zealand, and Denmark. Another set of statistics shows Sweden's suicide rate just lower than that of my beloved Canada, and just higher than the USA's.

Something else I stumbled upon while looking into this was the scientifically proven link between country music and suicide. No, it's true. Dr Steven Stack of Wayne State University, Michigan, said, "We had hard data showing that cities with higher than average country music radio market share had higher white suicide rates." (Read more here, then google the subject for more in-depth information)

Eat your bat-munching heart out, Ozzy.

Bottom line:
The idea that Sweden's national sport is suicide is a myth. So there.

Parties in Helsingborg:
This has been a time of birthday parties, it appears.

You may remember my American fellow blogger Ken (from Football Fashion Fanatics). Well, he had a birthday party on August 29th. I won't reveal the age of this semi-centennarial Yank, but his party had a cool-yet-bizarre vibe.

About half of the guests were off-duty cops, while most of the rest were complete undesirables (like me). But it was a great night, nonetheless. There was a guitar/microphone set-up as well, and CSI:Nils made an appearance, so there were some songs sung.

However, some of the people singing should have been arrested, in my opinion, including Ken's girlfriend, who came up with The Booby Song, which she reckoned gave her carte blanche to roam the party squeezing everyone's fun bags. Even the guys'. Criminal behaviour.

A week later, another friend (a Brit this time) also had a birthday party. I'm not sure of how he feels about Internet anonymity, so I'll call him Mr Flipperandy. Close enough.

It was an 80s-themed party, and it was cool to see a load of people dressed in the monstrousness that was 80s fashion.

Here's Mr Flipperandy, in his 80s regalia, with a nice German girl.
Those who know him will notice that he actually went to the trouble of getting a bit of a trim for the occasion.

For my part, since I pretty much only own black clothes, I decided to go for the look associated with The Cure. And I decided to wear my Make Poverty Quieter t-shirt, so that I could wittily knock the big "Feed The World" fad of the mid-80s.
"We Are The World? Typical imperialistic American sentiment. They think they are the world. Bollocks," I quipped. Then, moving onto the original British effort - and without skipping a beat - I hilariously remarked (to everyone's continuing applause, followed by hushed appreciation), "Do They Know It's Christmas? Umm, as far as I know, the people of Ethiopia are Muslims, so I would think that they neither know nor care about any Christian holidays."

Oh what fun.

Here's me with a Dutch girl, known as The Dutch...ess.
Sounds like The Dutch "S", but her real name (which actually contains 27 letters altogether - no joke) actually has no "S" in it. Go figure.

Had a great time there, and I must commend Mr Fipperandy on his choice of theme.

The point of this whole thing though is that I think cops should be banned from all parties except ones held by cops. It's time that the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.