We Hear You

We Hear You

“Younger adults are at a greater risk for experiencing depressive symptoms compared to older Latinos.”
We Hear You

We Hear You

“An official report from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2009 that nearly 15% of Hispanic teens had attempted suicide the year before compared to 10% of all city high school girls.”
We Hear You

We Hear You

“Perceived discrimination and depressed emotion are highly linked in Latino adolescents.”
We Hear You

We Hear You

“11% of Hispanic girls across the country admitted a suicide attempt.”


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Extra Bilingual Newspaper

Ignored mental health issues lead to suicide

attempts among Latinas

by Angélica Jiménez | trad. Víctor Flores

Christmas Eve morning 2009, Giovanna Mendez received the phone
call no parent should ever receive. Repeated unanswered calls
made from her daughter Tatiana’s cell phone and one missed call
from the police department caused Giovanna to panic. When the
police arrived to Giovanna’s home, she learned her only daughter
hanged herself in the middle of the night.

“You would never know she had depression. She’d keep things to
herself,” Giovanna explained. “She had a lot of dreams; she was a
good daughter.”

Tatiana, 20, was smart, determined and focused. She was in a
romantic relationship her parents found troubling. After moving out
with her boyfriend, she moved home for a time but then went back
to him.

Tatiana left a suicide note apologizing to her family and asking that
they take care of her niece, whom she adored.

Tatiana’s death is only part of a growing national crisis: 11 percent
of young Latinas ages 13-21 across nationwide admitted a suicide
attempt according to a report from the Center for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC). The disparities between Latina teens
attempting suicide and their peers is startling: the CDC reported in
2009 that nearly 15 percent of Latina teens surveyed had
attempted suicide the year before compared to 10 percent of all
high school girls.

The idea of Latina teen suicide is perplexing to many because
Latino families are known for their close ties and cohesiveness, two
known deterrents of teen suicide. But suicide attempts by Latina
teens are increasing.

However, the number of Latinas who die by suicide is very small
said Samantha Gray, epidemiologist with Cook County Department
of Public Health. Gray notes there were fewer than five suicides
among Latinas aged 13 to 19 since 2000 in suburban Cook County.
But one in six Latina teens have considered attempting suicide,
according to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey for Suburban Cook
County in 2010. The survey was completed by 1,718 students in 20
public high schools during the fall of 2010.

Bi-Cultural Effect
What is happening to these young women? Some experts point to
the culture shock experienced from immigrant Latina teens trying to
fit in. There is a disconnect between some immigrant mothers and
their U.S. born daughters on how to adapt to American culture while
still retaining root cultural values, experts said.

While it is often not just a singular issue that may be troubling teens,
the struggle over ethnic identity can be particularly challenging for
Latina teens, said Dr. Virginia Quiñonez, faculty chair of the
Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

“There’s a conflict between ‘I want to be independent and I want to
be interdependent; I want to feel comfortable in the safety by my
family,’” Quiñonez said. “And that is not supported in their peer

Latinas face the pull to be close to family and strike out on their
own, Quiñonez said.

“What it means to be a woman in this country may be different than
what they bring as Latinas,” Quiñonez said. “If one parent or both
are not available, it makes it that much more of a critical issue.”

Cultural Stigma
Other experts cite a taboo against counseling in immigrant Latino
communities is preventing many troubled teens and stressed
parents from getting the help they need.

For many teens, it is comfortable to talk about mental health issues
but not with their parents, said Mayra Chacon, coordinator of Latino
Mental Health Providers Network, which offers support to area
mental health providers.

Chacon ran focus groups with teenagers and young adults 14-21 to
discuss their thoughts about the mental health system.

“A girl who recently attempted suicide said, ‘Even when I was in the
bed and the hospital and I was trying to explain to my mom and dad
why, they would not listen,’” Chacon said.

The stigma in Latino culture against therapy runs deeps, Chacon

“[Teens have] heard it at home from their family, ‘You’re going to a
counselor? Estás loco.’ Kids born and raised here in Chicago, but
what they heard from their parents impacted them,” Chacon said.

Surviving a Suicide
There is no simple explanation for why her daughter committed

“They look like they don’t have problems at all,” Giovanna said
wiping her tears. “It’s hard to see those signs especially when that
person is smiling and not complaining.”

Giovanna’s faith in God has carried her through such a devastating

“I gave myself to God. I was going to church every single day,”
Giovanna said tearfully.

Giovanna also started attending support groups for survivors of

“It’s what keeps me strong; I have met beautiful, wonderful people
who have given so much support,” Giovanna said. “But I’ve met a lot
of women who don’t want to go through that [counseling]. They
don’t go on with their lives.”

Photos of Tatiana, a beautiful young woman with long, brown hair
and constant smile, are scattered all over their living room.

“I know that through talking [about her], I feel closer to her,”
Giovanna said solemnly. “I just pray every day for her. I light a
candle for her every day.”

This story was reported by http://www.Latina-Voices.com in
partnership with Mujeres Latinas en Accion
http://www.mujereslatinasenaccion.org. They received a Local
Reporting Award from Community News Matters, a program of The
Chicago Community Trust. You can read more stories from this
project at http://www.Latina-Voices.com.


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