SAN JUAN – The death of a 4-year-old girl at the hands of her own father has shaken Puerto Rico, where the phenomena of mental illness and domestic violence appear to be increasingly linked.
The president of the Puerto Rico Psychology Association, Ilia Rosario, told Efe Monday that the shocking murder is a sign that mental health is the biggest problem facing the island.
“The mental health problem must be dealt with immediately,” Rosario said after hearing about the death of little Irianis Montañez Claudio, hanged by her father, who committed suicide minutes later also by hanging.
Iris Claudio Santiago had separated from Pedro Montañez Martinez just two weeks previously and he threatened to kill their daughter if she didn’t return home.
The man, an alarms technician, had a record of domestic violence against the mother of the little girl, having threatened her with a knife in 2008, an incident that nonetheless was not punishable by law.
Rosario regretted this latest episode of domestic violence, and said that many such cases are related to mental disorders that are not treated adequately.
“Mental health is the root of the problem,” Rosario said about Puerto Rico’s current wave of violence, following a weekend with five suicides that raised the number of people who have taken their own lives this year to 123.
Rosario said it is obvious that mental disorders affect many Puerto Ricans, though there are few specialists providing service in the island’s public health system.
Data from the Puerto Rico Psychology Association show that more than 5 percent of the population has been diagnosed with some severe mental disorder.
“People need help,” Rosario said, and expressed the association’s readiness to deal with mental health problems together with the administration of Gov. Luis Fortuño.
“We’ve prepared a proposal for a team of psychologists go out in the streets,” Rosario said.
She acknowledged that the number of psychologists in the public health system grows smaller by the day, most recently because of problems deriving from the cancellation of the government’s contract with insurer Medical Card System, provider of Medicaid services on the island.
Rosario said that there is no one answer to explain the increase of mental disorders among the population, and said that this is a “multifaceted problem.”
Puerto Rico is also in the grip of drug-fueled violence that is blamed for the majority of the 592 homicides recorded so far this year. EFE