Bogotá September 20, 2022 (@DefensoriaCol). The pandemic caused by COVID-19 has greatly affected the mental health of children and adolescents in Colombia, said Ombudsman Carlos Camargo after a review of juvenile suicide cases between 2015 and 2022.
“This is a reality that is alarmingly increasing, and that is why the Alliance for Colombian Children, World Vision Colombia and the Office of the Ombudsman call for prevention actions, strengthening the protective environment and promoting the development of the skills of caregivers to detect behavioral problems and with psychosocial support to ensure that conflicts do not end fatally,” the ombudsman said.
The call to all social sectors is made in connection with the presentation of the report “Analysis of data on child suicides and suicide attempts in Colombia between 2015 and July 2022”, prepared by the Alliance for Children Colombiana, World Vision Colombia and the Ombudsman , based on data published by the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensics (IMLCF) and the National Institute of Health – INS, through SIVIGILA.
“What this report allows us to see is that intersectoral care is urgently needed, work from the health sector is not enough if it is not articulated with what is happening in families, schools and other settings where girls and boys develop. The analysis we are doing also allows us to establish that it is key to work on the way the data are reported and the variables worked on by the IMLCF and the INS,” notes Angelica Cuenca Gómez, executive secretary of the Alianza por la Niñez Colombiana.
The report presents stark findings and conclusions, one of which is that between January 2015 and July 2022 there were 2,060 suicides and 32,719 attempted suicides by children and young people, showing that this is a problem that affects full assurance of the rights of children and adolescents in the country.
In addition, regarding the pandemic, 2019 was found to be the year with the highest number of recorded cases with a total of 290. As of July 2022, the figure has already reached 179 reported suicides of children and adolescents between 6 and 17 years of age, with 13% more than the report for the same period of the previous year.
“This in itself is already serious and we need to act quickly because it is estimated that if the trend continues for the next few months, 2022 could have the highest number of recorded cases in the last 7 years, which is worrying for the comprehensive guarantee of children’s rights”, added Carlos Camargo.
In Colombia, in 2019 and 2020, SIVIGILA recorded 17,211 suicide attempts among children under the age of 18. 2019 was the year with the most cases, 9,957, of which 74% (12,733) of the recorded attempts corresponded to girls and adolescents and 26% (4,478) to boys and adolescents. Similarly, data analysis showed that for the years 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2020, between 2.8% and 4.2% of suicide attempts ended in a suicide act.
On the other hand, DANE recorded a total of 903 self-harms and consequences in the first four months of 2022; of which 16.16% (146) of the total number of cases correspond to suicides in children and adolescents between 0 and 19 years. Of these, 28 occurred in children under the age of 14 and 118 in adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19.
It is worth noting that between the ages of 5 and 13, the main causes of suicide attempts are physical, psychological and sexual violence in the school environment; while between 14 and 19 years are related to family factors.
“Child and adolescent mental health care 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, family and society to mitigate the risk factors that can lead minors to make this decision and to promote protective factors “, added the ombudsman.
It is important to mention that despite the existence of the Mental Health Act 1616 of 2013, which provides to ensure the full exercise of mental health rights and to prioritize 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 social-emotional development and specialized programs for mental health in educational institutions.