In 2007, suicide was the third leading cause of death for Latinos aged 15 to 24, the third leading cause of death for those aged 25-34 and the 13th leading cause of death for Latinos of all ages. In 2007 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the suicide rate for Latino adolescents aged 15 to 19 was 5.78 per 100,000 compared to 7.14 for all Non-Latino adolescents. In the 12 months preceding the 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the following was found among Latino high school students, 8.1% reported having made a suicide attempt-compared to 6.3% among all students; while 15.4% reported having seriously considered attempting suicide in the last 12 months-compared to 13.8% among all students. In a 2012 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13.5% of Latino high school age females admitted attempting suicide, while 20.2% reported having seriously considered attempting suicide-compared to 16.1% of White female. The CDC also found that 36% of Latino high school students report feeling sad or hopeless.
In looking at these statistics it is crucial to ask ourselves why has there been such a drastic increase in both admitted suicide attempts, as well as the actual suicide rate. Some contributing risk factors are: peer pressure, depression, access to lethal methods such as firearms, undiagnosed mental health issues, stigma of mental illness, cultural assimilation, maladaptive coping skills, stress caused by the immigration experience, minority status, family history of mental disorder, suicide or substance abuse, prior suicide attempt, incarceration, family issues, sexual orientation, abuse (physical, substance etc.), exposure to the suicidal behavior of others such as family, peers or media figures, and domestic violence. In more recent years, due to the popularity of social media, bullying has become a main contributing factor to teen suicide. Sadly, victims of bullying are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide and approximately 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of bullying. This issue is so prominent, that in recent years, school districts across the nation have had to implement anti-bullying programs in an effort to address the issue.
As a community, the application of knowledge of suicide etiology and evaluation of prevention strategies must be a top priority. Some risk reduction strategies include: reducing early risk factors of depression, substance abuse, and aggression, building self-esteem and stress management, providing crisis counseling, restricting access to lethal means, suicide education and peer support programs. Suicide is a topic that must be discussed both at home and at school. Adolescents need to know that: they have a voice, we care about their concerns, they have a means of support during any adversity they may face, there are numerous resources available and most importantly to prevent tragic and senseless deaths.
By Being Latino Contributor, Maria G. Rodriguez, RN, BSN, CHHC, www.connectmymindbodyandspirit.com