LATINA SUICIDE EPIDEMIC

In 2015, nearly one in four of New York State’s Hispanic youth considered suicide, and one in seven actually attempted suicide. We have a special report about this growing epidemic affecting the Latina community. New York State Senator Marisol Alcantara is here to take us inside this epidemic and her plans to end it.

Aired on January 23, 2018.

TRANSCRIPT

> THE NUMBERS TELL THE STORY.

ACCORDING TO A STUDY BY THE CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION, LATINA TEENS CURRENTLY HAVE THE HIGHEST RATE OF SUICIDE ATTEMPTS AMONG ALL THE GROUPS IN THE U.S.

ESPECIALLY SEVERE IN NEW YORK STATE WHERE SUICIDE HAS BECOME THE SECOND LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH AMONG THAT DEMOGRAPHIC.

LATINA TEENS ATTEMPT SUICIDE AT NEARLY TWICE THE RATE OF WHITE PEOPLE.

NOW A NEW LAW INTRODUCED BY GOVERNOR CUOMO HOPES TO HELP SAVE LIVES.

THE SUICIDE PREVENTION ACT WAS PRESENTED BY A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE LATINA COMMUNITY.

WE HAVE HERE TO TALK ABOUT THE ISSUE THAT AFGFECTS SO MANY YOUG PEOPLE.

I WANT TO TALK ABOUT A BILL IN A MOMENT, BECAUSE LET'S TALK ABOUT THE PROBLEM.

IF YOU LOOK AT THE NUMBERS, YOU GET A BIT OF A PARADOX.

NEW YORK STATE HAS ONE OF THE LOWEST SUICIDE RATES IN THE COUNTRY, BUT NOT WHEN IT COMES TO THE LATINA COMMUNITY, WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?

I THINK THE SITUATION OF IMMIGRATION, AND A LOT OF LATINA YOUTH HAVE TO ACT AS INTERPRETER FOR THEIR PARENTS, SO AS A YOUNG KID, YOU'RE DEALING WITH ADULT ISSUES WHEN YOU GO TO THE WELFARE OFFICE TO TRANSLATE FOR YOUR PARENTS, WHEN THE LANDLORD COMES IN AND YOUR PARENT IS NOT ABLE TO SPEAK ENGLISH, YOU HAVE TO SERVE AS A TRANSLATOR.

SO IN A LOT OF CASES LATINA YOUNG FOLKS ARE THROWN INTO ADULT SITUATIONS AND BE PRIVY TO CONVERSATIONS THAT A NORMAL YOUNG PERSON AT THAT AGE IS NOT PART OF IT.

SO THEY'RE SUBJECTED TO ADULT STRESSES AND TENSIONS WHEN YOU'RE STILL TALKING ABOUT CHILDREN.

ABSOLUTELY.

AND YOU LIVE IN A CITY WHERE 25% OF THE POPULATION IS LATINA AND YOU DON'T SEE YOURSELF AS A ROLE MODEL ANYWHERE.

FOR EXAMPLE, I WAS THE ONLY MEMBER OF THE NEW YORK STATE SENATE.

WE HAVE ONE OF THE HIGHEST LATINA POPULATION IN THE NATION.

BUT YOU DON'T SEE YOURSELF ANYWHERE, SO YOU ARE PART OF THE SOCIETY, BUT YOU DON'T SEE ANYWHERE IN THE SOCIETY.

YOU KNOW, AND THERE'S THIS -- WE TRIED TO VISIT THE SCHOOLS IN OUR DISTRICT A LOT AND JUST LETTING OUR YOUNG GIRLS KNOW THAT YES, YOU CAN MAKE IT, YOU CAN GO TO COLLEGE.

I WAS BORN IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, SOME OF THEM ARE BORN HERE.

BUT JUST THE DISCONNECT, AND ALSO THE CULTURAL DIFFERENCES.

YOUR PARENT PROBABLY LIVED UP IN A PLACE THAT WAS VERY RELIGIOUS, VERY CATHOLIC, WHAT IS EXPECTED OF WOMEN IS VERY DIFFERENT THAN WHAT IS EXPECTED OF A YOUNG WOMAN IN THE UNITED STATES.

I REMEMBER I WAS INVITED TO SLEEP OVER AND MY MOTHER WOULD TELL ME, YOU HAVE A HOME, WHY DO YOU NEED TO SLEEP IN SOMEBODY ELSE'S HOUSE?

YOU WANT TO GO OUT AND SPEND TIME WITH YOUR FRIENDS, AND YOU PARENTS THINK YOU SHOULD BE HOME BY 8:00.

SO SIGNIFICANT CULTURAL DW DIFFERENCES?

RIGHT.

AND WE HAVE A LOT OF YOUNG FOLKS THAT ARE POOR, SOME OF THEM ARE UNDOCUMENTED AND JUST THE STRESS OF KNOWING WHETHER OR NOT YOUR PARENTS ARE GOING TO BE DEPORTED, THAT CAN BE A HIGH LEVEL OF STRESS.

BECAUSE WHEN YOU'RE THINKING ABOUT IT, FOR EXAMPLE LATINAS HAVE A HIGH RATE OF SUICIDE IN STATEN ISLAND BECAUSE YOU HAVE A HUGE HISPANIC POPULATION ON STATEN ISLAND AND IT'S MOSTLY UNDOCUMENTED AND YOU DON'T HAVE A LOT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, ESPECIALLY FOR IMMIGRANT COMMUNITIES.

YOU TALK ABOUT SOCIAL SERVICES AND THAT BROUGHT US TO ANOTHER SET OF STATISTICS THAT ARE ALSO TROUBLING.

ONLY 35% OF HISPANICS WITH DEPRESSION RECEIVE CARE AS OPPOSED TO 60% OF WHITES.

IS THAT CULTURAL ALSO, DO YOU THINK?

CORRECT, THAT'S A CULTURAL THING.

PEOPLE DON'T WANT TO BE LABELLED IN THE LATINA COMMUNITY, YOU GO OUTSIDE TO GET HELP, IT'S A STIGMA, GO TALK TO THE PRIEST, GO TO CHURCH, PRAY ABOUT IT.

AND THERE'S A STIGMA THAT ONLY SOMEONE WHO SHOULD BE IN A MENTAL INSTITUTION SHOULD GO OUT AND SEEK HELP.

I REMEMBER WHEN I HAD MY SON, I TOLD MY MOTHER I WAS FEELING A LITTLE BIT DEPRESSED AND MY MOTHER WAS LIKE, OH, JUST WATCH TV AND DO SOMETHING POSITIVE.

IT'S THAT EXPECTATIONS OF EXPLAINING TO YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS, MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES ARE A MEDICAL PROBLEM, JUST LIKE IF YOU HAVE HEARD DISEASE YOU GO TOE SEE A MEDICAL PROFESSION.

SO PARENTS DON'T WANT TO THINK THAT THEIR KIDS NEED MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL.

SO WE HAVE DONE A LOT OF WORK AROUND MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES AND MAKE IT MORE ACCESSIBLE FOR POOR AND WORKING CLASS FOLKS.

MOST SCHOOLS IN NEW YORK CITY, DON'T HAVE A SOCIAL WORKER, THEY HAVE A SECURITY OFFICER, BUT NOT A SOCIAL WORKER.

YOU HAVE A BILL SIGNED INTO LAW CALLED FOR BY GOVERNOR CUOMO, WHAT ARE THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THIS BILL?

WHAT WILL IT PROVIDE?

I FIRST OF ALL WANT TO THANK THE GOVERNOR FOR SIGNING THE BILL, IT SHOWS HIS COMMITMENT TO HISPANIC AND IMMIGRANT COMMUNITIES.

WHAT HE DID WAS CREATE A PANEL TO LOOK AT WHY IS THIS HAPPENING IN LATINO COMMUNITIES, WHY IS IT SO PREVALENT IN LATINO COMMUNITIES AND NOT IN OTHER COMMUNITIES.

AND TO FIND OUT WHAT CAN WE DO TO CUT THOSE NUMBERS DOWN AND WHAT KIND OF SERVICES DO WE NEED TO PROVIDE TO OUR LATINA COMMUNITY SO OUR YOUNG GIRLS ARE NOT DEALING -- WHAT ARE THE STRESS FACTORS, WHAT KIND OF RESOURCES DO WE NEED TO BRING INTO THE MCOMMUNITY?

THESE TYPES OF STUDIES ARE ESSENTIAL.

YOU HAVE TO HAVE AN ANSWER ABOUT WHY, BEFORE YOU MOVE FORWARD AND DEAL WITH THEM AND HOPEFULLY FIND SOME SORT OF RESOLUTION.

ARE YOU CONFIDENT THAT ONCE THAT'S BEEN DONE THE FUNDING WILL BE THERE SO THAT THE GOVERNMENT WILL BE ABLE TO TAKE THAT NEXT STEP AND SAY, ALL RIGHT, HERE'S WHAT WE'RE GOING TO PROVIDE MECHANICALLY TO HELP THESE YOUNG PEOPLE?

THIS YEAR'S INTERESTING.

WE WERE ABLE TO PROVIDE $250,000 TO AN ORGANIZATION CALLED COM COMMUNOLIFE.

TEN SCHOOLS, WHERE A PILOT PROGRAM WILL BE SET UP TO DEAL WITH YOUNG GIRLS, STARTING IN MIDDLE SCHOOL, WHEN GIRLS GET IN TROUBLE, START SKIPPING SCHOOLS AND SHOWI ING TENDENCIES OF PROBLEMS AT HOME.

WE HAVE IDENTIFIED 10 SCHOOLS IN WASHINGTON HEIGHTS AND INWOOD, AND IT'S CALLED LIFE IN PRECIOUS IN SPANISH.

AND TRY TO HELP OUT AND GIVE SOME KIND OF SUPPORT TO THE GIRLS IN OUR COMMUNITY.

WILL THERE BE A MECHANISM HERE TO PROVIDE TRAINING FOR FOLKS SO THAT YOU HAVE PEOPLE WHO ARE IN A POSITION TO SEE SOME OF THE WARNING SIGNS EARLY ON, TO RECOGNIZE THEM, AND THEN PEOPLE WHO PROVIDE THE SERVICES, THE COUNSELING THAT WILL HOPEFULLY START TO SAVE SOME OF THESE LIVES?

YES, TOTALLY.

I INVESTED A LOT OF RESOURCES THIS YEAR ON COMMUNITY GROUPS SUCH AS INWOOD COMMUNITY SERVICES, LIKE I SAID, LIFE IS PRECIOUS, CATHOLIC CHARITIES TO PROVIDE MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES ALL THROUGHOUT THE COMMUNITY, FROM INWOOD ALL THE WAY TO THE UPPER WEST SIDE.

SO THEY CAN WORK WITH A LOT OF THE YOUNG GIRLS.

QUICKLY, LAST QUESTION TO YOU, ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC?

ARE YOU SEEING PROGRESS, DO YOU THINK, IN OUR ATTEMPTS TO SAVE THE LIVES OF THESE YOUNG PEOPLE?

WE ARE VERY OPTIMISTIC, WE HAVE DONE A LOT OF WORK IN THE COMMUNITY AROUND WOMEN'S ISSUES.

AND I HOPE THIS COMING 2018, WE CAN DO MORE WORK IN OUR COMMUNITY AROUND ISSUES OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT FOR WORKING CLASS FOLKS, THOSE WHO WORK IN THE NONTRADITIONAL EMPLOYMENT.

WE WANT TO DO MORE TRAINING IN OUR COMMUNITY, WE WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT LATINAS IN NEW YORK HAVE A NICE REPRESENTATION AND THEIR ISSUES ARE ADDRESSED.

WE ARE THE SECOND LARGEST GROUP IN NEW YORK CITY.

WE DESERVE TO HAVE RESOURCES LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE.

WE PAY TAXES, WE WORK.

AND A LOT OF TIMES WE KEPT NEIGHBORHOODS SUCH AS WASHINGTON HEIGHTS VIBRANT WHEN PEOPLE WERE FLEEING THE CITY, AND WE NEED TO MAKE SURE THAT POOR AND WORKING CLASS CITIZENS HAVE RESOURCES.

IT'S OKAY TO GO SEE A SOCIAL WORKER, IT'S OKAY TO GET THERAPY IF YOU'RE HAVING PROBLEMS WITH YOUR PARTNER.

THAT COULD BE A GOOD HEALTH MESSAGE FOR PEOPLE TO GET?

I ALWAYS TELL PEOPLE I ALWAYS FEEL SO MUCH BETTER WHEN I GO AND TALK TO A SOCIAL WORKER ABOUT WHATEVER PROBLEM I'M HAVING.

AND YOU COME OUT LIKE A BRAND-NEW PERSON.

AND WHILE I AM IN THE LATINO COMMUNITY, I ALSO WANT TO HELP THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITIES TO GET RESOURCES.

THERE ARE FRIGHTENING STATISTICS, BUT IT SOUNDS LIKE WE'RE MOVING FORWARD IN AN EFFORT TO BREAK THAT CYCLE.

THANK YOU FOR COMING AND TALKING TO US, SENATOR, WE APPRECIATE IT.

YOU BE WELL.

THANK YOU.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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