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Short Stories From An American in Cape Verde: Suicide and Mental Health In CV

I have been in Cabo Verde for more than six years and have heard of more suicides and have known more people peripherally who have committed suicide than ever in my life. Maybe this is because it’s a small country. But there still seems to be a disproportionate amount of suicides in this island nation.

Just last month there were reports of two young people who committed suicide, in fact one twentysomething, well-educated, and well-employed young man jumping from a building in one of the city’s more affluent neighborhoods. Actually it was in my neighborhood. And about six months ago, a teenage girl who was having family problems committed suicide in my old neighborhood, a poorer, working-class section of the city.

A little more than two years ago a promising young artist committed suicide–and no one understood why. His career was on the upswing. He was painting and illustrating campaigns for the local government and had just signed to a new manager. Some say he was depressed, but not many thought it was serious enough to be concerned.

Pictured: A painting from a young artist who committed suicide

Pictured: A painting from a young artist who committed suicide

The talk locally is that many of the suicides are committed by people from Fogo Island. Whether true or not, the government has studied this. And the high suicide rate on Fogo has caused concern. Filipe Santos, a psychologist and teacher at Teixeira de Sousa High School on the island of Fogo, told Asemana news that she believes that suicide on the island “is not an epidemic, but rather a phenomenon that has always occurred.”

And here is a distressing stat. “Suicide is one of the ten most common causes of death in Cape Verde, and current statistical data indicates that the phenomenon is taking on a national scope. Fogo, nevertheless, continues to have the country’s highest suicide rate,” reported Asemana.

Up to six people commit suicide on Fogo alone annually, mostly among people aged between 25 and 34. The reasons are most often related to depression and family conflicts. Because of these large numbers on an island with a population of just 55,000, the Ministry of Health has implemented strategies to get psychological workers to deal more closely with teenagers.

Santos says there have been suicides for a long time on Fogo and may be linked to cultural, political or economic issues.

And I don’t think, in my opinion that people are opposed to mental health care treatment. I personally knew of four young Cabo Verdeans who sought out therapy. And I have talked opening with others here who have revealed they were dealing with depression. In the States I find it is difficult for people to admit to being depressed, but here it seems to be discusses openly–by both men and women, young and old. But maybe the problem is a lack of sufficient public mental health care.

Daniel Ferreira of the Association of Promotion of Mental Health told Ocean Press, that suicides are a problem all over Cabo Verde and that while there is no specific data on the number of suicides in the country, it is estimated that the national rate surpasses the world average of 16 cases per hundred thousand inhabitants. The most common form of suicide in Cabo Verde is by hanging. “Other common forms of suicide are often by using firearms, jumping down the cliffs, poisoning, causing car accidents or drowning in the sea,” reported Ocean Press.

Hopefully, the country will come up with some solutions and treatment who are suffering from depression.

About the Author

Ann is a freelance writer who started her professional career at the NY Trend more than two decades ago. Ann has since gone on to write for a number of major outlets including: Black Enterprise, Essence, MadameNoire, Pathfinders, Frequent Flier, Playboy, The Source, Girl, Upscale, For Harriet, The Network Journal, AFKInsider, Africa Strictly Business, AFKTravel, among others.

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