The Ombudsman’s Office warns of an increase in the suicide of minors

The pandemic caused by COVID-19 greatly impacted the mental health of children and adolescents in Colombia, assured the Ombudsman, Carlos Camargo, after reviewing the cases of suicide in minors between 2015 and 2022 .

“This is a reality that is increasing worryingly and that is why the Alliance for Colombian Children, World Vision Colombia and the Ombudsman’s Office call for action to work on its prevention, strengthen protective environments and encourage the development of skills in caregivers to detect behavioral problems and, with psychosocial support, to ensure that conflicts do not end fatally”, said the Ombudsman.

The call to all social sectors is given in connection with the delivery of the report ‘Analysis of the figures on child suicide and attempted suicide in Colombia in the period 2015 and July 2022’, which was carried out by the Alliance for Children Colombiana, World Vision Colombia and the Ombudsman, based on figures published by the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences (IMLCF) and the National Institute of Health – INS, through SIVIGILA.

“What this report allows us to see is that intersectoral care is urgently required, work from the health sector is not enough if it is not articulated with what happens within families, schools and other environments where girls and boys develop. The analysis that we carry out also allows us to identify that it is key to work on the way in which the data and the variables that are being worked on from the IMLCF and the INS are being reported”, notes Angélica Cuenca Gómez, executive secretary of Alianza por la Niñez Colombiana .

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The report presents decisive findings and conclusions, one of which is that between January 2015 and July 2022, 2,060 suicides and 32,719 suicide attempts were committed by children and adolescents, which indicates that it is a problem that affects the full guarantee of the rights of children and adolescents in the country.

In addition, regarding the pandemic, it was established that 2019 was the year with the highest number of reported cases, with a total of 290. As of July 2022, the figure already reaches 179 reported suicides of children and adolescents. between 6 and 17 years of age, 13% higher than the report for the same period of the previous year.

“This in itself is already serious and we have to act quickly because it is estimated that, if the trend continues for the next few months, 2022 could have the highest number of registered cases in the last 7 years, which is worrying for the comprehensive guarantee of children’s rights”, added Carlos Camargo.

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In Colombia, in 2019 and 2020, 17,211 suicide attempts were registered in the SIVIGILA in children under 18 years of age. 2019 was the year with the highest number of cases, 9,957, of which 74% (12,733) of the registered attempts correspond to girls and adolescents and 26% (4,478) to boys and adolescents. Likewise, the data analysis showed that for the years 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2020, between 2.8% and 4.2% of suicide attempts end in a suicidal act.

On the other hand, DANE registered a total of 903 self-inflicted injuries and sequelae in the first four months of 2022; of which, 16.16% (146) of the total cases correspond to suicides in children and adolescents between 0 and 19 years of age. Of these, 28 occurred in children under 14 years of age and 118 in adolescents, between 15 and 19 years of age.

It is worth noting that between 5 and 13 years of age the main reasons for suicide attempts are physical, psychological and sexual abuse in the school environment; while between the ages of 14 and 19 they are associated with family factors.

“Mental health care for children and adolescents should be considered a priority issue on the public agenda. And, in this sense, child suicide is a problem that requires actions that must be addressed as soon as possible by the State, the family and society to mitigate the risk factors that can drive minors to make this decision and promote protection factors”, added the Ombudsman.

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It is important to mention that, despite the existence of the Mental Health Law 1616 of 2013, which provides to guarantee the full exercise of mental health rights and give priority to children and adolescents through health promotion and prevention of mental disorders , and comprehensive health care, there is still a need to implement pedagogical programs for socio-emotional development and specialized mental health care programs in educational institutions.

The Ombudsman’s Office warns of an increase in the suicide of minors