April 4th, 2011
15% Of Latina Teens Attempt Suicide

Latina youth attempt suicide at rates that are often twice that of other ethnic groups, we’ve reported on this before and noted that one reason may be the culture clash in immigrant families, but this week in New York some alarming statistics emerged of this phenomenon there.

More than one Latina teenager out of every five living in Brooklyn attempted suicide during 2009 – a rate that was almost twice the level just two years earlier,  according to a new report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  In New York City as a whole, one in seven young Latinas attempted suicide in 2009 – a substantially higher incidence than for the U.S. as a whole.  Latina teens generally attempt suicide at rates far greater than their non-Hispanic counterparts – more than twice the rate of white youth in New York City (14.7% versus 6.2%) and 44% more frequently than teenage African-American girls (14.7% versus 10.2%)…

The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System report for 2009 found that the levels of suicide attempts by Latina teenagers were also shockingly high in the City’s other boroughs:  15.3% in the Bronx, 16.5% in Staten Island, 12.2% in Queens and 11.7% in Manhattan.

Professor Luis H. Zayas, director of the Center for Latino Family Research at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, spoke to us last year about this topic. He said these high suicide attempt rates are higher for these young women here in the U.S. than in their home countries, pointing to what Zayas says is a mix of factors ranging from culture, assimilation, immigration and family issues. Once these women reach adolescence they face a potentially lethal mix of poverty, a lack of familial communication and the physical or emotional absence of a father.

Other factors contributing to high rates of Latina suicide attempts include: immigration, poverty, low access to health care, language barriers, the absence of extended family and the cultural idea of a close-knit family unit. To read the full interview with Professor Zayas click here.

Follow Sara Inés Calderón on Twitter @SaraChicaD

[Photo By calleecakes]

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