Some years nearly one out of five young Latinas tries to kill herself
IN 1961, when researchers first reported a disturbing pattern among young Latinas, it was treated as an ethnic concern.
Forty years later, the fact that almost a quarter of Hispanic girls in this country have tried to kill themselves is everyone's crisis.
Researchers need to better understand why so many girls want to die, and schools and nonprofits have to better help them cope.
Social workers have known about Latinas' exceptionally high rate of attempted suicide for decades, said psychiatrist Luis Zayas, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis. But the pattern's breadth was confirmed in 1995, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first documented it in a national study.
Their finding: One out of five Latina teens had attempted suicide. Last year, the rates dropped for all teenagers, yet 15 percent of Latinas still reported trying to kill themselves, in contrast to 7 percent of white girls and 7 percent of black girls.
There's almost no literature to explain why this is. Researchers have found plenty of anecdotal explanations, as well as demographic risk factors: Fewer Latino youngsters have health insurance, for example. Latinos are also less receptive to seeking mental health care.
Alarming attempted suicide rate among Hispanic teenage girls
Rising Numbers of Latina Teens Trying Suicide (2002)
Our Daughters—Young Latinas in Crisis