The red numbers of suicide in Cuba

Every day in Cuba four people end their lives by committing suicide, according to Cuban official records.

In 2016 the number of death due to this cause was 1429, according to the National Office of Statistics and Information of Cuba (ONEI, in Spanish) and the Anuario Estadistico del Ministerio de Salud de Cuba in 2016 (Statistic Yearbook of Cuban Health Ministery).

If you google “suicide” and “Cuba” the main articles are about the son of the deceased Cuban leader Fidel Castro Ruz, named Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart. In February,  Castro Diaz-Balart committed suicide in La Habana, as the official press published. That brought to the public agenda once again the sensitive topic of mental health issues and suicide in the island.

For several decades, suicide has been included in the 10 first main causes of death in Cuba, with almost the same number of death than the ones caused by cirrhosis.

To understand the real dimension of the numbers we need to compare them with other countries. In America and the Carribean, Cuba is the 8th country with the higher rate of suicides, only preceded by Argentina, United States of America, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Bolivia, Suriname and Guyana.

The data used on this regional map is from the World Health Statistics inform of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2017. The numbers are from 2015 and are not the same that the official institutions in Cuba released in that year. The WHO stated Cuba had a rate of 14.0 per 100 000 individuals while the island said it was 13,3 in that year.

Despite that incongruence, if we analyze the suicide rate over the past years it seems to be pretty stable, which means that numbers aren’t worse, but also that the situation does not tend to make a major improvement.  Only in 2016 the rate was under 13 for the first time in more than 5 years.

Referring to sex, data shows an extremely difference of numbers that make men the most affected by suicide.

There are several questions that remain unknown as not all the data about the topic is public. However, a study from the Centro de Estudios Demográficos (CEDEM) (Demographic Studies Center) released an investigation in 2010 about suicide in Cuba in the period of 2004-2008. These are some of their conclusions based on data given directly to the authors from the Dirección Nacional de Registros Médicos y Estadísticas de Salud (National Direction of Medical Records and Health Statistics) :

– Historically, men suicide rate is several points higher than women.

– White people tend to commit suicide more than any other race in Cuba.

– Hanging is the principal method for self-injuries. In 2004 that was the method for 88,5 percent of all the suicide cases and in 2008 was 71,9 percent. Another methods are using a fire gun and jumping from a building.

– The principal age group affected by suicide is 60 years old or older.

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