One in five Latina adolescents attempt to commit suicide. They are more likely to take their own life than any other group in the United States.
Which is why two young Latina girls held campaign posters on each side of the podium at a press conference announcing the opening of a hotline in both English and Spanish to assist young Latinas with depression and to decrease the alarming rate of attempted suicides.
The Woodhull Medical Center announced a Latina Adolescent Suicide Prevention Campaign this morning at the predominantly Hispanic, Progress High School in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
“The high numbers were alarming and as a parent, it was a call to action. It is important for them to know that there is help available if they need it,” said Iris Jimenez-Hernandez, Senior Vice President of Woodhull North Brooklyn Network.
Dr. Leonel Urcuyo, M.D., Chairman of the Woodhull Medical Center said that the strategy of the campaign is to prevent suicides, identify the “red flags” and to educate the parents and the community about suicide. “Many of the suicide attempt victims end up in the emergency room instead of a psychiatrist office. There are alert signs that many don’t see and it is sad because about 80 percent of attempted suicides are committed by people who did not want to do so,” said Urcuyo.
Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 10 and 24 in the United States. According to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Latinas have the highest suicide rates attempts of any adolescent group in the US. 21 percent of Latinas ages 14 thru 17 have attempted to commit suicide compared to 10.8 percent of African-American girls and 10.4 percent of White girls.
“The pressures faced by young Latinas are overwhelming. Those pressures are made worst by often feeling disconnected from their communities or not Speaking English well enough to ask and receive help,” said actress Janet Dacal who is doing public service announcements on radio for the campaign.
This is the first prevention campaign in New York City addressing Latina adolescents and was approved and sponsored by the New York State Office Of Mental Health. There is an emphasis to address the links between parents, schools and students.
There were 36 Latinas involved in the research process from Progress High School. One of them is Diana De Leon. “They asked my opinion about suicide and ever since it has helped me develop an awareness of the issue to help other girls, said De Leon while speaking about a friend that attempted to take her life by eating rat poison.
Math teacher, Sandyrose Rolon has taught at Progress High School for over a year and she said that this initiative has helped her and some of her students to understand the changes in behavior. “Young people talk more to their peers than to their parents. By having young Latinas involved in this campaign we hope that the message will get across.”
The prevention campaign will include public announcements on radio, print ads, flyers, and posters. They hope to raise awareness and encourage young Latinas struggling with suicidal thoughts to seek appropriate help from suicide prevention sources in the community. To get the message across the Woodhull Medical Center is using the star power also from Dacal’s cast mate Lin-Manuel Miranda of the Tony Award Broadway musical ‘In the Heights.”
Miranda and Dacal have 60 second radio public announcements in both English and Spanish. “Programs like this are important for the community. Like many people, I was stunned to learn about the high number of Latinas who attempt to commit suicide,” said Miranda.
For now, the people involved in this initiative hope that it reaches the most vulnerable and that suicide rates drop among Latina adolescents. “It is important that they know that God has a future for all of us,” said De Leon.