Social violence is one of the main conditions that worsen people’s mental health and overall well-being.

In the face of the growing wave of violence that the Costa Rican population is suffering in its various manifestations, the Board of Directors of the CPPCR, taking into account the concern of a significant number of its members, and by the responsibility and ethical commitment of our college, publishes the following reflections and proposals.

By the Colegio de Profesionales en Psicología de Costa Rica (Costa Rican College of Psychology Professionals)

On the basis that:

All indicators of violence show a growth curve in recent years, with a degree of generalisation that encompasses practically all of its manifestations.
Social violence is one of the main conditions for the deterioration of people’s mental health and general well-being.
Social violence manifests itself in different forms, with different actors and in different scenarios. Nevertheless, such violence needs to be addressed comprehensively, both in its consequences and in its multiple origins.
Because of its multiple and complex manifestations, it is counterproductive and dangerous to reduce these great phenomena to a “psychologistic” vision of reality. In other words, if some situations can and must be explained and dealt with by specific individuals, with their own vicissitudes and “inner world”, they cannot be deprived of the socio-historical context that gives them meaning. Explaining and dealing with violence involves a subjective dimension, but it does not stop there; it must include the objective conditions that determine and explain it. It is therefore essential to adopt a broader social perspective, involving other disciplines and knowledge.
The generalisation of this violence must take account of the deterioration in the quality of life of the majority of the population. Since the 1990s, all indicators point to an alarming increase in social inequality and a systematic deterioration in the quality of life of the majority of the population. We have gone from a country with a large middle class and low levels of insecurity to one of the worst in Latin America and among OECD countries. Factors closely linked to this growing deterioration are the systematic reduction of social programmes and the concentration of policies in favour of small sectors based on political patronage, as well as the encouragement of growing corruption.
It is clear that the system has failed large sections of the population and therefore there is a growing weariness among the people, leading to resentment, anger, hopelessness and its escalation as they see their most basic needs not being met and feel betrayed by the country’s political class. These feelings are a perfect breeding ground for the development of a culture of violence.
At the same time, disappointment, disillusionment and anger in turn favour authoritarian political alternatives, fuelled by the growing and alarming role of drug trafficking in our countries, where they set up shop and recruit people, especially young people. These circumstances have accelerated the process of normalising violence and helping to legitimise it as a habitual form of social interaction.
Within this dynamic of increasing violence, there is evidence of the redirection of negative emotions towards certain groups, with a greater emphasis on the emotional charge and processes of exclusion, particularly against children and adolescents, people with disabilities, migrants, women, LGBTIQ+ people and the elderly, among others. In this respect, it is overwhelming and aggressive. Actions directed against specific individuals must be understood in this wider socio-cultural context.
Added to this are the current dynamics of social networks, where everyone is easily accused, judged and condemned, with such serious consequences as suicide among adolescents. Also to be taken into account is the increasingly sophisticated marketing apparatus aimed at generating and reinforcing compulsive patterns of consumption through the systematic reinforcement of habits, attitudes and behaviours that are contrary to a culture of peace.

Given the above:

The General Council commits itself to promote, as a matter of urgency, the broad participation of all colleagues in a series of days of reflection that will allow, in an open dialogue, an in-depth analysis of this whole situation and the construction of the best alternatives to confrontation. It also undertakes to take on board and manage the recommendations arising from this process of analysis.
The Board makes a general appeal to its members to consider as an urgent task, in their professional activities, the reflection and the adoption of possible measures to promote more empathetic and solidary human relations. This is an ethical imperative and a responsibility of our work.
We are extremely vigilant in the face of gender violence, given its characteristics and dynamics. The measures to be taken must cover the short, medium and long term, extending or correcting what has been done so far.
We urge the press and the public using the various platforms to exercise the utmost caution when publishing and showing scenes of assault, mutilation and killing. Exposure to such material can lead to the reinforcement of behavioural models and increase the sense of insecurity. We also urge members who are interviewed in the media not to reproduce short-sighted, simplistic or hyper-individualistic views of this painful and complex phenomenon.
We urge the whole population to work for the development of a culture of peace and the non-violent and dialogue-based resolution of conflicts. The College has at its disposal the Integral Centre for Conflict Resolution (CIREC), which can work to this end under the direction of trained professionals with extensive experience.
We believe that there should be greater investment in the areas of education, health, security and research. We therefore respectfully but strongly urge the government to change its social policies. We also issue a clear warning about the short-, medium- and long-term consequences of not changing the direction it is taking. If the current direction is not changed, we predict a deterioration of the situation of unprecedented dimensions and consequences.

Ad-hoc Commission of the CPPCR on Social Violence in Costa Rica.