by Ivette Leyva Martinez (Cafe Fuerte)
HAVANA TIMES — A total of 1,491 Cubans killed themselves last year in Cuba, raising the number to 15,473 self-inflicted deaths in the last decade, according to official statistics.
Data recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics and Information (ONE) reflect a slight increase in suicides in 2013 over the previous year, when there were 1,473.
The statistical picture of ONE ranks suicide as the ninth leading cause of death in the country, although not mentioned by name but as “intentional self-harm”.
The suicide rate in Cuba is 13.3 per 100,000 inhabitants, ranking 30th worldwide according to the World Health Organization.
Leading causes of death
The main causes of death in the country in 2013 were malignant tumors (22,868 deaths), heart disease (22,651), cerebrovascular disease (9,011), flu and pneumonia (6,091) and traffic accidents (4,932).
Unlike previous years, the 2013 statistical report does not detail the ages with higher incidence of suicide. During the period 2004-2011, most Cubans who chose suicide were 60 or older, followed by ages between 40 and 59 years.
Likewise the methods used to commit suicide are not mentioned. Studies of the Cuban Society of Psychiatry maintain the main methods of suicide on the island are hanging, burns and intake of agricultural poisons.
Since 1989, suicide was identified as a public health problem, which led to the creation of the National Suicide Prevention Program.
The current rate of suicide seems to point to a decrease of Cubans who choose suicide compared with previous periods. In 1987 the rate climbed to 22.7 per 100,000 and during the hardest years of the special period [first half of the 1990s] was maintained between 20 and 21.
However, doctors and the Cuban health system consulted by CaféFuerte agree that statistics could vary depending on what is classified as suicide.
“For example, I know cases of people that have deliberately thrown themselves in front of a car, but the cause of death is recorded as an accident,” said a Cuban doctor who requested anonymity.
The list of countries with the highest suicide rate ranks Cuba 30th, according to reports from the World Health Organization. The list is led nations such as Lithuania, South Korea, Kazahjastán, China, Japan, Finland and France, with rates ranging between 31 and 14 per 100,000 inhabitants.
In Latin America, Uruguay has the highest rate, with 16.5.
Worldwide a million people commit suicide annually, a figure often higher than victims of wars or homicides, states the World Health Organization.
SUICIDE IN CUBA FIGURES (2004-2013)