Six months after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico faces a suicide crisis
It's been six months since Hurricane Maria pummeled Puerto Rico, and the island still has a long way to go in recovering from the storm, which left hundreds of thousands of citizens without homes, electricity, or running water. But beyond infrastructure reconstruction, Puerto Rico faces another challenge as a result of the storm: skyrocketing suicide rates.
The number of suicide attempts between November 2017 and January 2018 was more than double the same period a year ago, Vox reported, based on data from the island's Commission for Suicide Prevention. The report found that in those three months, a crisis hotline run by Puerto Rico's health department received more than 3,000 calls from people who said they had attempted suicide — a 246 percent increase from the same period the previous year, Vox said.
In the same period, the hotline also received more than 9,600 calls from people who reported suicidal thoughts — an 83 percent increase from a year ago. El Nuevo Día, a Puerto Rican newspaper, reported that high rates of unemployment and homelessness after Hurricane Maria were likely contributing to the mental health crisis.
Puerto Rico was hit by the Category 4 storm in September, resulting in an estimated $100 billion in damage, reports The Washington Post. The island has made some headway restoring the electrical grid and rebuilding roofs on damaged homes, though many residents are still without power. The storm's total death toll is still unknown, as a recount is set to be completed in April.