Suicides Surge in Hopeless Venezuela

The patients arrive by night or in broad daylight, alive and sometimes dead.

A record surge of suicides in troubled Venezuela is wearing down doctors who work at the university hospital in the Andean state of Merida. People who have tried to kill themselves arrive at an uncertain rhythm that breeds dread in the professionals who receive them.

“We live between terror and impotence,” said Ignacio Sandia, who heads the psychiatry department. “We constantly think we can’t do what we should in the moment we’re able to, and we’re terrified that patients commit suicide and there’s nothing we can do for them.”

Suicides are rapidly rising across this once-wealthy nation, but particularly in mountainous Merida, where they are hitting levels never seen. The Venezuelan Violence Observatory, a nongovernmental organization, estimates that the state’s suicide rate was more than 19 per 100,000 in 2017. Only 12 nations have a rate so high.

Such deaths are becoming ordinary in a population plagued by hyperinflation, hunger and mass emigration. Xiomara Betancourt, a neurologist who heads mental-health services at Corposalud Merida, the public health system, blamed scarcities of antidepressant and anti-anxiety medicine and loneliness as loved ones leave.

“It’s a cocktail, a multitude of factors that have all converged,” she said.

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SOURCE: Andrew Rosati
Bloomberg