A new report shows there’s been an increase in suicides in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. According to NBC News, Puerto Rico’s Department of Health released a report that after years of a steady decline in suicides, the rates have increased by 29 percent in the months since the hurricane.
“Previous literature shows, and this is in any part of the world, that during the first six months after a hurricane there’s an increase in mental health symptoms,” Glorisa Canino, director of the Behavioral Sciences Research Institute at the University of Puerto Rico, told NBC News.
Puerto Rico’s Department of Health reports that in the months since Hurricane Maria 103 people committed suicide, which is 14 more than that the year before during the same time. This clearly indicates a major mental health problem in Puerto Rico.
They also reported an increase in suicide hotline calls. Puerto Rico’s Department of Health say suicide hotlines received 3,050 calls from people who said they wanted to kill themselves, which is a 246 percent spike from the previous year. Even further, another 9,645 people also called the hotline to say they had suicidal thoughts, which is an 83 percent hike from the previous year.
People’s mental health anxiety has increased for a variety of reasons. Dr. Carlos del Toro Ortiz, a clinical psychologist in Puerto Rico, told The New York Times last November that people there experience an increase of anxiety anytime it rains because they fear their homes will flood again.
“They have heart palpitations, sweating, catastrophic thoughts. They think ‘I’m going to drown,’ ‘I’m going to die,’ ‘I’m going to lose everything,'” Ortiz told The New York Times.
Aside from fears of reliving floods and disaster is that in the wake of hurricane people could not get to the pharmacy and get their medication. Not being able to take medication not only makes people mentally and physically unregulated, but it can also lead to devastating affects.