According to the latest report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of Hispanic teenage girls to take their lives is twice more likely than other girls of racial backgrounds.
The report showed that 26% of Hispanic teenage girls contemplated suicide in 2013 compared to 21% of Hispanic teenage girls in 2011 who wanted to take their lives.
In New York City the rate regarding this troublesome topic went up 3%. In areas like Brooklyn and Staten Island it was reported that close to a quarter of Hispanic teenage girls had contemplated suicide last year. In these boroughs the rate of suicide attempt went up 5%.
According to Dr. Rosa Gil the possible reason for suicide among teenage girls within the Hispanic community may be due in part to their status as immigrants or members of immigrant families.
“When these girls migrate to the U.S., they face much isolation in their adaptation process,” describes Dr. Gil, on one factor causing the increase in suicide. “The language barrier, problems getting acquainted with a new school system, as well as bullying are some of the disturbing and stressful experiences they endure.”
Dr. Gil goes on to say that the process of acculturation—the cultural change of one behavior and way of thinking for a new host country—is a recurring reason as to why the suicide rate may be high among Hispanic teenage girls.
In order to combat the issue and helping Hispanic teenage girls, Dr. Gil founded La Vida Es Preciosa, also known as Life Is Precious in English. La Vida Es Preciosa is a program that aims to help young Latinas to overcome their suicidal thoughts and provide their parents with knowledge about signs that will help them to identify the suicidal thoughts.
Some of the signs that Dr. Gil advises parents to be aware of regarding Hispanic girls who may be contemplating suicide are self-isolation, aggressive conduct, poor academic performance, and weight changes.
“It is advisable to monitor how much time youths spend connected to social media and engaging in texting. Abusing these platforms inhibits their desire to verbalize their feelings and problems,” advised Dr. Gil.
Another contributor to Hispanic girls contemplating suicide is due to trauma caused by sexual violence. At La Vida Es Preciosa, out of the 150 young Hispanic women the program aides 35% are reported to have suffered from sexual abuse. Sexual abuse victims are more likely to commit self-harm and have a high risk of suicide.
According to Dr. Gil, many Hispanic girls who suffer from wanting to end their lives come from low-income households within poor neighborhoods. Due to this socio-economical background Hispanic teenage girls have limited access to mental health specialists who understand both the culture of their world and its language.
The recent awareness towards suicide being high among Hispanic girls comes after the recent death of Alejandra Parapis.
On Friday, June 27th,14-year-old Alejandra was discovered at 1 am in the morning after she had hung herself in the basement of the three-story house she and her family lived in in East Elmhurst, Queens. The motivation for her suicide is unknown.
“It is very painful. We cannot stand even talking about her,” said Alejandra’s father, “The police are investigating the motive, but we still don’t know what could have driven her to take her own life.”
Like her parents, Alejandra came to the U.S. from their native town of Cuenca, Ecuador. Before Alejandra could arrive in the U.S. she was left her in the care of her grandmother on her father’s side.
According to Walther Sinche, the president of the International Ecuadorian Alliance and a family friend, the separation Alejandra experienced caused her great anxiety and behavior problems.
“Her grandmother could not deal with the situation, so the family decided to send the 6-year-old girl to New York. She crossed unaccompanied; she was brought in by coyotes. It was their only choice to bring the family back together,” said Sinche.
Sinche discloses that Alejandra’s arrival to the states wasn’t exactly a happy one.
“The girl did not recognize her parents at first. She was scared and reluctant; she was in shock,” he adds, yet still could not phantom why Alejandra decided to take her life. “In time, she seemed to adapt. Everything looked normal. She looked like a happy child. There’s just no explanation for this.”