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Suicide Rate on the Rise Amongst Members of the Carajá Ethnicity in the Mato Grosso State

02/27/2018 - 11h57

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RODRIGO VARGAS
FOLHA CONTRIBUTOR

Three tombs with flowers have been dug into the ground in the middle of a forest area that constitutes a simple cemetery. Carved into the haphazard tombstones are the names of three of Waritaxi Iwyraru Karajá's children.

The 56-year-old and resident of Santa Isabel do Morro, the largest village of the Carajá ethnicity on Bananal Island (which is in between the states of Tocantins and Mato Grosso), said that he thinks about his children on a regular basis, trying to piece together what happened.

Waritaxi's children committed suicide between 2012 and 2016. His youngest child was just 21 years old when he killed himself. A daughter of his, who took her own life when she was 24, was four months pregnant.

SUICIDE OCCURRENCES

Waritaxi and Iwararu aren't the only parents looking for answers. According to numbers provided by the Ministry of Health, 35 members of the Carajás ethnicity committed suicide between 2012 and 2016 - not to mention dozens of suicide attempts, the most recent of which took place in early January.

Most of the suicides involve young males between the ages of 11 and 25. The 2017 numbers have not been released yet, although the consensus among leaders and the authorities is that the situation has worsened. The Carajás ethnicity has a population of approximately 4,200.

"After having subsided, in 2017 [the situation] became alarming again", said prosecutor Alvaro Manzano at the Public Prosecutor's Office in Tocantins. Folha has learned that eight suicides were registered last year in the neighboring towns of Santa Isabel and JK.

"We are very worried. Our youth is our future and there is no explanation for why they are dying", said Juanahu Karajá, the recently-selected chief in Santa Isabel.

Translated by THOMAS MATHEWSON

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