Patterns of Distress, Precipitating Events, and Reflections on Suicide Attempts by Young Latinas

Zayas, Luis H.; Gulbas, Lauren E; Fedoravicius, Nicole; Cabassa, Leopoldo J.

By most epidemiological accounts, young US Latinas attempt suicide more often than other youth. Little is known, however, about the circumstance and internal experiences of the attempts. To understand this phenomenon, we conducted thematic analyses of twenty-seven qualitative interviews with teenage Latinas (aged 11-19) living in New York City who had attempted suicide. Collected between July 2005 and July 2009, the interviews explored the emotional, cognitive and physical experiences of the attempts and the social situations in which they took place. Results show that the girls were divisible nearly equally into a group with a stated intent of death and a group that did not intend death. The pathways to the suicidal event consisted of a pattern of continuous, escalating stress (primarily at home) that created the emotionally combustible conditions for the attempt. A trigger event that either reminded them of past stress or revived feelings of that stress catalyzed the attempt. Guilt and remorse were common responses to the suicide attempts, and on reflection the girls demonstrated some broader perspectives. Results of the analysis clarify the sociocultural context of the suicide attempts, underscoring the cultural discontinuity experienced by adolescent Latinas, who struggle to reconcile traditional Hispanic gender socialization with their own insertion in a modern Western society.

Geographic Areas


Also Published In

Social Science and Medicine

More About This Work

Academic Units
Social Work
Published Here
November 12, 2012