An average of 315 Costa Ricans take their own lives every year, according to the latest report by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) on suicides in the region.
The report, “Suicide Mortality in the Americas: Regional Report,” released in late October, includes data from 48 countries and states that Central America has the lowest suicide rates behind South America and North America.
Analysis includes data from Costa Rica from 2005-2009. The report has similar findings to one conducted by the Costa Rican Health Ministry from 2010-2013. The ministry registered an average of 318 suicides per year during the three-year period.
PAHO has called suicide a severe public health concern, and the organization urged countries to strengthen research on suicidal behavior, abandonment, and other social and cultural factors.
Local health experts this week are participating in the National Health Congress in San José, and a keynote speech on Monday highlighted bullying as an increasing cause of suicide among teenagers.
Psychiatrist Virginia Rosabal said Monday at the congress that Costa Rica has registered 21 suicides caused by bullying in the last five years. She believes the number is increasing.
Among the types of bullying, Rosabal cited physical, psychological and sexual abuse, as well as social exclusion and cyber-bullying. Cyber-bulling is a growing trend as more young people use social media networks.
In her presentation, Rosabal cited a recent case involving a high school teenager who killed herself after two classmates created a Facebook page in her name that claimed she was available for sexual acts.
“We need to find a solution by starting in the home, in school, and from the perspective of health professionals,” she said. “We have protocols to address this issue in Costa Rica, but we need to step up our efforts.”
On Tuesday, forum participants discussed further development of these types of protocols, the role of health and educational organizations, and legal approaches to bullying in suicide cases.