Over on Barbara, Guanabee’s ladyblog, there was a brief but thought-provoking interview with Professor Luis Zayas, director of the Center for Latino Family Research at Washington University in St. Louis. Zayas has been studying the unusually high rate of suicide attempts among teenage Latinas, estimated at about 15%, which is double that of their white and African-American counterparts. Results of his study seem to be typical of all Hispanic groups in the United States — Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans, etc. — but doesn’t hold true for these groups within their home countries, meaning suicide rates for all these groups are higher in the U.S. Professor Zayas attributes this to multiple intersectionalities: immigration, poverty, low access to health care, language barriers, and a lack of extended family as well as the rigid gender roles typical of Latino culture.
Barbara: How does the typically low cultural status of young Latinas play into these suicide attempts?
Zayas: It’s a [low] status that they have and the expectations that are put on them for the sense of obligation to the family, but also the sense of what the boys can do that the girls can’t do. The kind of emphasis that is given on them for chastity and things like that and decorum that are not expected of the boys. There’s a lot there that they must take care of — the younger siblings and so on.