A CNN article recently placed spotlight on the troubling rates of Latina suicide attempts.
One out of every seven Latina teens, or 14 percent, attempts suicide according to a 2007 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey of high school students. And Latina high school students have higher attempted suicide rates than white non-Hispanic (7.7 percent) or black non-Hispanic (9.9 percent) girls their age, the CDC reports.
Research done by Dr. Luis Zayas, a psychologist at Washington University, has tried to focus in on the cause of this high rate of suicide attempts.
He says the typical Latina teen who attempts suicide is 14 or 15, the daughter of immigrant parents, lives in a low-income setting and is caught in an intense battle with her mother over Latino and American cultures. Research conducted by Zayas has found the girls’ parents hold strictly to traditional Latino values, while teens who grow up in America learn “very different models about what girls should do, can do and are permitted to do.”
This struggle between two cultures is what many first generation teens experience everyday. Their parents come to this country with good intentions to give their children a better life but it’s a challenge. They go through years of separation from their families, working underpaid positions just to be able to minimally provide their families needs. This takes a toll on the parent but it also takes a toll on the rest of the family.
We have to look at all the ways the hardships faced by Latina immigrants impact our lives and our health, and find interventions and services that can prevent them as best we can.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing problems and needs to talk or has thought about attempting suicide please contact The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene at 1-800-Lifenet or call 311.
By Jennifer Leigh Velez, Policy Intern