The suicide rate in Puerto Rico has surged by 29 percent since 2016, according to a report released by the Commission for Prevention of Suicide.
The suicide rate dropped 21 percent from 2015 to 2016, yet appeared to spike last year: 20 people committed suicide in December 2017 alone. In all of 2017, 253 Puerto Ricans committed suicide. Puerto Rico is home to 3.4 million people.
Most victims were men (86 percent), with women accounting for 14 percent of victims. Experts suspect the rise is due to the devastation left by Hurricane Maria in September 2017, Newsweek reports.
“A lot of patients are presenting severe mental health issues since the storm, and the number of patients in our clinic has increased dramatically,” said Dr. Kenira Thompson, who runs a mental health clinic in Ponce. “Not one person that has lived through the storm can't say they weren’t touched by what happened."
Hurricane Maria hit the island with 155 mile-per-hour winds and dumped over 30 inches of rain onto the island. Although the official death toll is 66, the actual number is suspected to be closer to 1000. Many residents are still living in poor conditions almost five months after the storm.
“A lot of people are still living with tarps over their roofs. We normally have thousands of patients but have seen an increase in patients coming into the facility in rural areas post-Maria,” said Thompson. “Power is restored in most urban areas, but for rural areas, it's as if the storm hit last week.”
Allocation of resources have also been questioned after FEMA gave an Atlanta-based company $156 million to provide 30 million meals but they have only distributed 50,000. There have also been allegations of corruption disrupting the rebuilding process.