HomeTop StoriesUruguay suicide rate hits new record in 2022, cementing its position as...

Uruguay suicide rate hits new record in 2022, cementing its position as an outlier in the region

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Uruguay’s suicide rate rose again last year, reaching a new all-time high and cementing the small country’s position as an outlier in the region.

The South American country’s suicide rate reached 23.3 deaths per 100,000 people in 2022, when suicide deaths totaled 823, up from the previous record of 21.6 set in 2021, according to figures from the Uruguayan health ministry released this week.

“Suicide rates have risen since the 1990s to date, with some minimal declines in a few years,” said Gonzalo Di Pascua, a psychologist who is a member of the Coordinator of Psychologists of Uruguay and has studied suicide extensively. “The pandemic, as in many other areas of healthcare and mental health, has mainly exacerbated an already existing trend, namely the rising suicide rate.”

Uruguay is by far an outlier in America, where the average suicide rate was nine per 100,000 people in 2019, according to the latest available figures from the World Health Organization.

See also  Leaders Japan and Iran meet in New York in September

Uruguay’s high suicide rate contrasts with how the country is often seen as a model of economic stability in the southern cone. Uruguay has the highest ranking of all South American countries in the United Nations’ World Happiness Ranking, ranking 28, compared to Brazil’s 49 and Argentina’s 52.

Yet Uruguay’s two neighboring countries have much lower suicide rates: Argentina recorded 8.4 per 100,000 people in 2019 and Brazil 6.9.

Eduardo Katz, head of the mental health division of the Uruguayan State Health Services Administration, says some of the disparity may be due at least in part to “underreporting in neighboring countries.” Although he admits that this does not tell the whole story.

“Another very important factor is that there is little adherence to religion in Uruguay” compared to neighboring countries, Katz said, pointing out that the view of suicide as a sin “also creates a sense of restraint and deterrence.”

Experts also speculate that Uruguay’s small population — some 3 million in total — makes it more difficult for people with mental health problems to seek help for fear they will be judged by members of their community.

See also  Powerball lottery ticket sold at San Jose gas station matches 5 out of 5 numbers

“There are few of us and we all know each other,” said Katz.

There is also a strong stigma against asking for help.

“Uruguay still has a preconception that mental health care is for the crazy,” said Di Pascua. “There’s still a lot of bias when it comes to talking about mental health, and even more so when we talk about suicide.”

That’s even more pronounced in rural areas, where suicide rates are highest, and among men, who account for nearly eight in 10 suicides in the country.

“A man is less likely to speak up when he’s feeling down because he’s facing a social ban, a social ban because of the false machismo that consists of saying ‘I’m sad,’ ‘I feel bad,'” Katz said. “It is seen as a symbol of weakness.”

Despite years of high suicide rates, Katz said Uruguay has only recently begun to change its approach to dealing with the scourge.

The health care system has not prioritized “reducing demand, which means working on prevention,” Katz said. “We’re starting that now.”

See also  NYPD: 1 student stabbed, 2 others in Brownsville, Brooklyn

For his part, Di Pascua said Uruguay has long had a “very individual focus on the person making the attempt and not a solution that is more community oriented.”

Despite the recent shift in focus, there is little optimism that it will lead to immediate changes in the country’s high suicide rates.

“Of course there is no magic wand that can reverse these kinds of trends overnight. This will take quite some time,” Katz said. “It’s very challenging to reverse a trend, but I’m confident we’re going to make it.”

- Advertisement -


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments