Trapped Between Worlds, Some Latina Teens Consider Suicide

Courtney Yager, CNN, October 20, 2009

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Such a disconnect between mothers and daughters is what Dr. Luis Zayas, a psychologist at Washington University, suspects is leading an alarming number of Latina teenagers to want to end their lives.

One out of every seven Latina teens, or 14 percent, attempts suicide according to a 2007 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey of high school students. And Latina high school students have higher attempted suicide rates than white non-Hispanic (7.7 percent) or black non-Hispanic (9.9 percent) girls their age, the CDC reports.

Zayas has spent the last 25 years trying to find out why. He says the typical Latina teen who attempts suicide is 14 or 15, the daughter of immigrant parents, lives in a low-income setting and is caught in an intense battle with her mother over Latino and American cultures.

Research conducted by Zayas has found the girls’ parents hold strictly to traditional Latino values, while teens who grow up in America learn “very different models about what girls should do, can do and are permitted to do.”

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Zayas is nearing completion of a five-year study of more than 200 Latina teenagers who live in New York City. More than half of those studied have attempted suicide, {snip}

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