A new project from the Pultizer Center on Crisis Reporting highlights an alarming trend in Cuba—waves of suicides that have echoed the nation’s political and economic ups-and-downs for decades. Lygia Navarro reports for The Virginia Quarterly Review:
Socialismo o Muerte. Socialism or Death. In that slogan splashed across Cuba, there is nothing honorable, or revolutionary, about choosing suicide; the very idea is intensely political and taboo. Sit down with most medical professionals in Cuba, in fact, and they will assure you that suicide is rare, that there is nothing striking about the country’s relation to self-destruction. They may not even know the truth themselves, may never have seen the statistics: according to the World Health Organization, year after year, more Cubans commit suicide than citizens of any other Latin American country. The national suicide rate trails just behind that of the People’s Republic of China, of high-strung developed countries such as Japan and Finland, and of a slew of depressed post-Soviet states.
The Cuban government does not track suicide rates, or the use of anti-depressants and sedatives, which are hot commodities on the black market. Six months after Fidel Castro left power, Navarro talks to Cubans struggling with this silent epidemic.