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High rate of Latina teen suicide in the US

By AR Vasquez     Mar 17, 2013 in Health
New York - An alarmingly high rate of American Latina teenagers have contemplated or attempted suicide, according to "Life is Precious".
Life is Precious was created by Comunilife in the New York City area in 2008 to provide support for Latina teens aged 12 to 17 years of age.
"According to the 2011 U.S. Center for Disease Control’s Youth High Risk Behavior Survey in the U.S., 13.5% of Latina adolescents tried to take their own lives one or more times.  In New York City, the number for the same group was 11.3%; in Brooklyn 11.6%; in Staten Island 9.3%; Bronx 13%; Queens 7%; and Manhattan 13.3%.  Even more alarming is the fact that the rate in Brooklyn doubled between 2009 and 2007. Latina teens attempt suicide at rates far greater than their non-Hispanic counterparts – more than twice the rate of white youth in New York City (11.3% vs. 5.3%)."--Life is Precious, Comunilife
AlJazeera's, The Stream investigates what could be the cause of the disproportionately high rate of teen suicide in Latina teenagers compared to other minorities in the United States.
Beatriz Coronel, Programme Coordinator of Life is Precious states that the factors that are common with the troubled teens are immigration and culture, language, parental conflict, and changes in the family structure. She explains that changes in family dynamics such as an absent parent, lack of physical or emotional support from parents means that the girls spend a lot of time without parental supervision. The girls often do the domestic work at home and care for younger siblings. The lack of time for the teens to focus on their homework affects their ability to do well in school. According to Coronel, 50% of the girls at Life is Precious have been held back a grade. Many of the Latina teens are also victims of school bullying, school segregation and find that they have trouble fitting in with the other students. In addition, she says that they are often victims of abuse both sexually and/or physically and are living in severe poverty. In many cases these teens are from a family of six or more living in one to two room apartments. She continues to say that along with these disparities, many of the Latina teens do not have access to mental health care and if they do have access, the parents who are an important part of the treatment plan cannot participate because of the language barrier.
Aljazeera reveals that discrimination against Latina teens does not stop at school. Latina teens are at the age when they are trying to figure out their sexual identity. At home their need to talk about this with their parents conflicts with their parents' traditional, cultural and religious beliefs where talking about sex is taboo. Parents end up bullying their children and adding to their already low self esteem.
Lauren Gulbas, Assistant Professor at Dartmouth College did a study of Latina teens comparing those who attempted suicide with those who did not. She states, in the interview, that the Latina teens who attempted suicide could not foster a connection with their parents or their siblings or to anyone outside the family. Those who did not attempt suicide were able to reach out for help with people outside their families such as a school guidance counselor or with friends.
She continues to say that it is important for the young girls to find Latina role models who can help them look beyond themselves and find a place in the world to help them be grounded. First Nevada's Latina Assemblywoman, Lucy Flores is one such example. At the age of 13, Flores was sent to juvenile hall for a 9 month sentence for stealing a car. She, like the troubled Latina teen girls at Life is Precious, had a father who was never home and a mother who left because she was in capable of raising a family. Flores was able to overcome the hurdles she faced as a child. Latina teens could learn something from Ms. Flores.
More about latina teen suicide, life is precious, comunilife, Aljazeera, Stream
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