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More than 1 in 4 Latina high-schoolers have thought about committing suicide.
Suicide attempts among Latina teenagers are at a higher rate than their non-Hispanic White female and Hispanic male peers, according to a Salud America! research review.
That’s why it is important to explore the reasons why─and what to do about it.
Latinas and Mental Health
In the Latino community, mental health problems often are not spoken about. There is a stigma attached to it. Or people just don’t know enough about it, according to an article.
That’s especially true for Latinas.
“The expectations of what makes a ‘good’ Latina are often rooted in propriety and maintaining appearances, specifically when it involves something as personal as mental health or illness,” wrote Liz Magallanes in a Latino USA op-ed.
Latina teens experienced high levels of stress and conflict with their parents due to differences in upbringing, which plays a pivotal role in Hispanic teenage girls’ suicide attempts.
Further, Latinos are less likely than other ethnic/racial groups to call a suicide crisis line when having an actual suicidal crisis.
“Expressing difficulty in grappling with these issues, women may be dismissed as ‘too emotional,’ leaving any productive conversation about breaking the status quo, out of the question,” Magallanes wrote. “It is far too difficult for some then to even consider seeking help from a mental health professional.”
Latina Celebrities, Authors Shed Light to Mental Health Issues
Latina singer Demi Lovato knows firsthand the challenges and stigma of dealing with depression and building resilience.
That’s why she teamed up with a nonprofit to bring free mental health sessions to each of her upcoming tour dates, Billboard reports.
Magallanes called it “a step in ensuring communities of color are supported by others who understand what they are experiencing.”
Other Latinas are making similar breakthroughs.
Journalist and filmmaker Raquel Cepeda directed a documentary, Some Girls, which tackles issues in the Latina-American community. The specific focus is on “troubled teenage girls in a Bronx-based suicide prevention program who feel rejected by mainstream America.”
Erika Sanchez’s book, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, focuses on the importance for young people of color dealing with mental health issues to feel seen and heard.
“I think it’s important to talk about mental health. I’m tired of the stigma. People need to see it as a part of health in general. If you’re not mentally well, you’re not physically well. People think [depression] is a character flaw when it’s a mental illness that needs treatment” Sanchez said in an article.
Latina celebrities that have spoken freely about their mental health issues knew seeking professional help was the key to recovery. This includes Selena Gomez, who has shared about her anxiety, panic attacks and depression that goes along with her Lupus condition.
When Latinas speak out, it also encourages and inspires others to take action and seek help concerning one’s own mental health issues.
“When provided with the language and support of family and community, developing the tools to overcome these challenges is possible,” Magallanes wrote.
Latina Advocate Helps Bust Fear, Build Mental Health Support
Minerva Perez knows Latino immigrant live in constant fear of being deported, losing homes, and losing children in East Hampton, N.Y. (17.1% Latino), which harms parents’ and kids’ physical and mental health.
She wanted to help.
Her big idea?
“Safe space” workshops.
Minerva’s group, Organizacion Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island, began three-hour workshops—called Círculos de Fuerza, or Circles of Strength—to enable Latino families to express their stress and fears in English or Spanish, and lean on each other for support, all with guidance from licensed mental health professionals.
“[Latino immigrants] can feel good about whatever they’re sharing in this room.”