The Silenced Death

Suicide in the Asturian mining areas

Suicides in Spain are the leading cause of unnatural death in the country, exceeding the number of 4,000 people in 2021. This means that 11 people die by suicide every day.

There are three areas where the incidence of suicide is particularly high: eastern Andalusia, between the towns of Iznájar, Alcalá la Real and Priego de Córdoba, which form the so-called “triangle of suicides”; Galicia, especially the northern area, and Asturias, the community that leads the percentage of suicides in Spain per 100,000 inhabitants.  

In Asturias there are different places and areas with high percentages, even reaching double and triple the national average. The case of the mining basins is one of them, with the exception that they have always had a high percentage of deaths by suicide for decades. For this reason, research was carried out on the relationships between the socioeconomic, historical and cultural structure of these territories and their high suicide rates, where factors such as the high consumption of alcohol, drugs and legal psychotropic drugs or the lack of a future perspective have been found. The end of mining activity in itself is not a defining factor, but the absence of a sustainable economy in the localities and the degradation of the identity of this territory, as well as the progressive population decline.

Suicide attempts and deaths by suicide depend on multiple factors and there is usually no single cause that leads people to take their own lives in order to stop suffering. Personal motives such as the rupture of close ties, whether friendship, work or family, are not always the determining factor. The situation of this territory is framed in a tradition that is not very communicative when it comes to expressing intimacy, feelings or problems. For this reason, the mining basins have become an ideal breeding ground for depression and other emotional and affective problems, patterns that can be repeated between generations and that ultimately lead to suicide.

For years, attempts have been made to establish a National Suicide Prevention Plan without success, despite the fact that the numbers far exceed any other non-natural death, although communication strategies have been found that have helped to reduce other types of deaths. If there are 20 attempts for every suicide death, how many overdoses due to legal psychotropic drugs, or other substances, accidents or similar are really suicides? 

It is impossible to confront a public health problem by denying or hiding its reality. Therefore, it is not only important, but urgent, to talk about suicide.





In Spain, suicides are the highest cause of unnatural death with nearly 4,000 people a year, Asturias being the community with the highest values. The Spanish average is around 8.7 per 100,000 inhabitants, while in Asturias it exceeds 13, with areas with more than 20. These values are more similar to Scandinavian countries, with a high percentage of suicides.

For several years there have been attempts to establish a National Suicide Prevention Plan without success. While deaths far exceed any other type of unnatural death, there are no communication strategies developed to combat them as in other cases of unnatural death: alcoholism, traffic accidents, drug addiction and others.

This project aims to find the connecting axes that explain this situation, especially in the geographical areas of the Nalón mining basin and the Caudal mining basin. These regions are abandoned by regional and state policies for not having economic assets and, therefore, increasing depopulation as a direct consequence, which deepens the crisis of the territory.

This relationship between the territory and the economic and sociocultural conditions highlights some elements that can be decisive: the end of the mining activity, on which the areas had depended economically, the cultural roots of alcohol consumption, added to the consumption of other substances and psychoactive drugs, or the little intra-family communication. All of this leads to depression and emotional and affective problems, which are a breeding ground for possible suicidal thoughts, which are being repeated among generations, thus throwing a complex present and future.





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