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Suicide prevention in South America: A serious problem—few solutions 

Suicide prevention in South America: A serious problem—few solutions
Suicide prevention in South America: A serious problem—few solutions

Paulo Alterwain

, Héctor Basile

, Daniel Fränkel

, Jaime Greif

, Silvia Hernandez

, and María del Carmen Paparamborda

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date: 23 May 2022

South America is a major region in the world, which includes many countries on the continent of South America, Central America and Mexico. The historic origin, cultural development, and various populations, which share similar characteristics, are reasons why this major region is also known as Latin America.

Psychosocial and economical related problems are prominent in South America. Diverse trauma including loss of cultural values and traditional beliefs, poverty, hunger, discrimination, violence, natural disasters, and poor working and social conditions are influencing mental health.

Suicide, as well as suicidal behaviour, is an individualistic phenomenon. However, suicidal actions are multifaceted and cluster-based, and often determined by poor social conditions. Accumulation of negative life events can be triggering factors for suicidal conditions.

Cultural differences with regard to style and characteristics can be found in suicides that are committed in both urban and rural areas. In South America particularly, the general beliefs and penalties regarding suicides are quite similar to those of the Judeo-Christian European cultural perspectives. Europe originated legal features (mainly from The Netherlands and Italy) in the nineteenth century are maintained, and can be seen in their respective penal codes. Suicide is not penalized. Suicidal behaviours are referred to either psychiatric or psychological treatment.

Uruguayan laws date from 1889, with some adjustments in 1934. The law recognizes and protects the right to life and any stimulus, cooperation or help to any person attempting suicide is punished.

In 2006, suicide rates in South America were 6.4/100,000 (Paparamborda 2007). Suicides in different South American countries vary among age groups: adolescents, young people, and the elderly (Granados 1977; World Health Organization 2000).

Epidemiologic information on completed suicide is still scarce in South and Central America, and the magnitude of so-called uncertain cases of suicide is not known (Bertolote and Fleischmann 2002).

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