Suicide epidemic is pervasive in New York City and risk factors differ.
To mark the upcoming annual International Suicide Prevention Awareness Day, Comunilife and the NYU McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research, sponsored a community forum on the topic of suicide among Latina and Black male adolescents. The forum held at MIST Harlem, was supported by a coalition of elected officials and community based organizations who served as community co-sponsors. The evening saw more than 250 community residents and stakeholders discuss why Latina and Black male youth are disproportionately affected by depression and suicide, and how families can seek help.
The discussion was moderated by Debralee Santos, the Editor-in-Chief of Manhattan Times and The Bronx Free Press. Panelists included Dr. Rosa M. Gil, Founder, President and CEO of Comunilife, Inc., Dr. Michael A. Lindsey, Professor and Director of the NYU McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research, NYS Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa, Reverend Michael A. Walrond Jr., Senior Pastor of First Corinthian Baptist Church, and Nivia Dones, suicide prevention advocate and parent of at-risk Latina.
For Latina teens the risk factors include family conflict. Often due to different levels of acculturation. We see this transnational identity stress most in the unique mother-daughter relationships. Other risk factors include stress, domestic/sexual abuse, academic failure and bullying. This is coupled with the stigma of mental illness in the Hispanic culture and the lack of culturally competent mental health providers. In 2017, these factors are heightened by the current political climate. Many families are experiencing fear and anxiety about immigration, including those in the United States legally.  Regardless of their citizenship/immigration status, the fear of deportation and family separation leads to increased anxiety and depression. Many Latina teens at risk of suicide and their siblings report that they are afraid that when they get home from school their parents, family members, or friends will no longer be there.
For African-American young adolescent men, depression is often a precursor to suicidal behavior. This is a result of racial discrimination and other psychosocial stressors including police harassment and violence. Other contributing factors can include dysthymic disorder, which are the same cognitive and physical problems as depression, with less severe but longer-lasting symptoms, substance abuse, and physical and emotional abuse.
In June 2016, the CDC released the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey which includes questions related to suicide ideation and attempted suicide.

In New York State suicide is the second leading cause of death for Latina teens ages 15 to 19. The statistics show startling differences between Latina teens and Black adolescent boys with the girls more likely to seriously consider suicide and attempt suicide but with Black male youth more likely to cause greater harm to themselves and complete suicide.
For both Latina teens and Black male youth the prevalence of suicide has increased with the children getting younger and younger. From 1999 to 2014, Black adolescents ages 10-14 had the highest increasing rate of death by suicide (79%) from 2.1% to 3.3%, compared to youth in other racial/ethnic groups. A 2015 study found that the rates of suicide among Black youth, particularly those transitioning to adolescence (ages 10-11), doubled between 1993 and 2012. African American boys ages 5 to 11 are the only age group where the rates of suicide among African Americans are actually higher than rates among all youth racial and ethnic groups.
According to Dr. Rosa M. Gil, President and CEO of Comunilife, Inc. “Data shows that while the teenage suicide crisis among Latina teenagers and adolescent black males has escalated to alarming rates, early intervention and resources can make a difference.  I am proud to partner with the McSilver Institute and spearhead this coalition that brings solutions, life, resources and hope to the forefront.  Together, forging initiatives such as Comunilife’s Life is Precious™ and ensuring that resources reach the most impacted communities, we can continue to save lives”.
Dr. Michael A, Lindsey, Professor and Director of the NYU McSilver Institute said: “In my experience as a clinician and researcher, there is a perception that suicide is not an issue that impacts youth of color. The impetus for co-sponsoring this event with Comunilife was to shine the light for parents, service providers and teachers about the realities concerning the prevalence of suicide, particularly among Latina and Black male youth. Our objective was to distill the data and the research to create better awareness regarding the signs of mental distress and provide a better understanding of how poverty, bullying, violence and incarceration enhance risks that may lead to suicide as well as create more opportunities to bring the conversation regarding mental health within communities of color.”
“For far too long, countless young people in our communities have suffered in silence while they have courageously battled mental health issues. The escalating rate of suicide among African American and Latino young men is an indication that we cannot continue to remain silent while others suffer silently. I am excited about the convening of this form by Comunilife, Inc. and the McSilver Institute, for I believe it will not only raise awareness, but also play a critical role in destigmatizing mental health issues in our community.” Said Rev. Dr. Michael A. Walrond, Jr., Senior Pastor, First Corinthian Baptist Church
Our families and our communities are suffering tremendously from the impacts of mental distress. Our youth, especially our Latina females and African-American males bear way too much of this burden. I highly commend Comunilife, NYU McSilver Institute, and all of the co-sponsors of this Forum,” said Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa, “for calling us to action to mitigate this alarming epidemic.  As a member of the Assembly Mental Health Committee,” De La Rosa went on to say “I will continue to work relentlessly with community organizations, impacted community members, and other experts to support our youth and their families in their efforts to prevent mental distress; identify suicide ideation, its contributing factors, and early signs. Subsequently, we continue to fight for resources and broad-based support in order to lessen the tragic impacts on Latina and African-American youth, families, and communities.”
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