The Pearl of the Caribbean: Mental Health in Cuba

It’s a responsibility of the island’s leadership to be accountable for their actions that influence a population’s mental health and wellness

By S.E. Lewinski*

HAVANA TIMES – Another Day in Paradise, but for who? The tourist, the political elite, or the 11 million people on the prison Island (A name coined by Cuba’s young). Some 250,000 people escaping the confines of the island in 2022 is surely a message of significance to the world. It’s as if people were voting with their feet.

If life was so wonderful in paradise, why would people sell their belongings, risk a foot journey across several countries, or 90 miles of dangerous waters in homemade boats? It’s an escape from a land that has little medicine, clean water, food, electricity, gasoline, etc. In addition, increasing poverty with inflation and devaluation of the peso bears its weight on the risks people will take to escape. 

Also consider with poverty, is the camouflaged impact on mental health and wellness. “Poverty in childhood and among adults can cause poor mental health through social stresses, stigma, and trauma,” state Lee Knifton and Greig Inglis in their study in Scotland.

Cuba’s reliance on imports and abysmal infrastructure has made the impact of poverty even worse for the population. Then throw in the occasional hurricane and oil refinery blowing-up deepening stress on the island and people degrade to the breaking point. The worst case of mental health decline includes suicide to check out of the island when the accumulated conditions overwhelms an individual.

“Physicist Fidel Castro Díaz-Balart, the eldest son of Fidel Castro, committed suicide after undergoing months of treatment for depression,” reported Science Insider.

Next, add in government policies that have the propensity to increase stress within the population with political and ideological controls. Such controls include the psychology that influences the masses’ state of thinking, as noted by Bruce Scott in “Turn illness into a weapon: Mental distress from a socialist perspective.” 

For example, the hidden control of a 24-hour work shift followed by three days off. This shift occurs in the professions of medicine and other governmental entities. Twenty-four-hour straight shifts and three days off may appear like a great idea, but it leads to disruption of the Circadian cycle and contributes to Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD). “These shifts lead to a 33% increase in the risk of depressive symptoms and increased risk of anxiety. Shift workers are more than twice as likely to have suicidal ideation as daytime workers,” states Parka and Lee from their studies. 

In summary, mental health on the island cannot be managed by low-cost ice cream or readily available alcohol. Political ideologies influence the minds of people who are struggling with daily survival and protecting their families. It’s a sincere responsibility of the island’s leadership to be accountable for their actions that influence a population’s mental health and wellness, even in paradise.


*A suicide influenced this article in Cuba of an individual serving the utility infrastructure. This individual endured over five years working 24-hour shifts leading to mental health decline. Suicide sadly was his only way out. One amazing individual with his mind destroyed by an anachronistic work style. An employee of the state who faced mental health degradation not by choice, but at the cost of his life.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times