Indigenous Suicide Rate in Brazil Is Six Times Higher Than National Average

Rick Kearns

The suicide rate for indigenous people in Brazil is six times higher than that of the general population according to a recently released study.

Brazil’s Health Ministry published a Map of Violence in October that included statistics on suicide throughout the nation. According to the Health Ministry’s study the suicide rate for the country in general is 5.3 suicides per 100,000 people but the rate for the municipalities with indigenous populations was 30 per 100,000 people.

“What is happening is a real extermination of these populations,” asserted Dr. Carlos Felipe D’Oliveira of the Brazilian Network for Suicide Prevention. The issue of indigenous suicide rates was addressed at a Forum on Suicide in Salvador, Bahia in September and, according to press reports, prevention will be a subject in next year’s Security and Family Commission at the National Congress.

The studies used for creating the Violence Map showed significant increases in suicide rates in northern indigenous communities; in that region there were 390 suicides in 2002 and by 2012 the number jumped to 693.

According to the data, some of the municipalities with the highest overall suicide rates in the nation are heavily indigenous, which include São Gabriel da Cachoeira, São Paulo de Olivença and Tabatinga in the state of Amazonia, along with Amambai, Paranhos, and Dourados in Mato Grosso do Sul.

“Usually, what we see is that the locales with the highest rate of suicide are those that have the least amount of assistance or services, with high unemployment rates, use of alcohol and a lot of conflict,” D’Oliveira said.

In one of the northern states, Mato Grosso do Sul, the vast majority of the suicides came from one ethnicity. The study showed that of the 73 cases of suicide in 2013 in Mato Grosso do Sul, 72 of them were by Guarani-Kaiowas.

According to Anthropologist Spensy Pimentel, who has studied Guarani-Kaiowa communities, suicide has been a serious problem for many years and can be connected to policies involving territory.

“Individually, suicide has many motivations, but in the majority of times, the small family conflicts that lead to a young person’s decision to take his life is related to the lack of land,” Pimentel asserted.

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