Depression and a decline in mental health in teens has been on the rise since the late 2000s. An epidemic that has been especially detrimental for Latina teens who are reported having the highest suicide rate in New York City.
According to NBC, “one out of seven teenage Latinas attempt suicide, a rate higher than any other teenage ethnic group nationwide.” But one organization has been working tirelessly for the past 11 years to combat these statistics. The Latina suicide prevention program Life is Precious was created by the Latino health initiative, Comunilife, and opened its first Manhattan-based center earlier this year.
“The Latina teenage suicide attempt epidemic continues to escalate nationwide,” said Dr. Rosa M. Gil, the President and CEO of Comunilife. “Our new center in Washington Heights will further enable us to strengthen our work and outreach to save lives by providing the teens and their families with the tools they need to overcome suicide ideation and high-risk behavior.”
While this is their first center in Manhattan, they’ve been helping families annually around the city, with service centers in Queens, the Bronx, and Brooklyn.
Each center is open on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday; and offers an array of services directly related to the risk factors that often result in suicide ideation. Eligible teens receive educational support, health and wellness activities, and are provided the tools to build resistance. All of these are available in both English and Spanish to meet the needs of each teen and family.
However, participating in the program isn’t without its requirements. To be eligible “a Latina teen must be between 12 and 18 years of age, be diagnosed with depression or living with a mental illness or have seriously considered or attempted suicide, be enrolled in school and have parental permission.”
While there is still a long way to go in combating the high suicide rates among young Latinas, Comunilife has made significant strides with their centers. As of today, the organization reports on their website that since their inauguration in 2008, out of the more than 300 Latina teens who have participated in Life is Precious, not one has completed suicide.
“The Latina adolescent suicide crisis that is impacting New York and the entire nation, calls for bold, innovative and effective initiatives and resources to save lives,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who serves District 10 (Washington Heights, Inwood, Marble Hill).