At 19 years old, Ana* has gone through a lot.
Only a year ago, her main caretaker, her grandmother, died and she came out to her family and friends as bisexual.
When she tried to ask her family for help because things were turning her mind, they told her she was “crazy.” She felt that she got a more negative response then when she had come out to them as a bisexual.
“Why should we tell our parents what is going on in our lives if when we have these thoughts that come in to our head, all they’re going to do is make us feel worse when they laugh or take it as a joke?” Ana said.
Suicide is the leading cause of death among youth between the ages of 10 and 19.
One in five high-school Latina girls in the U.S. have seriously considered suicide and face the highest amount of suicide attempts compared to other races, according to a 2011 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Long Beach has one of highest rates of suicides in Los Angeles County according to a county study.
Many factors influence a young person’s decision to end their life, but one of the most common is low self-esteem.
In a discussion with parents who live in the same apartment complex as Ana about suicide and low self-esteem some parents admitted that those issues were almost taboo in their homes.
“We don’t bring this up and we try to avoid these talks with our kids,” said Long Beach parents of two teenage youth. “We don’t talk about it because we fear that we will bring those ideas to their head, but then again they hardly tell us anything that happens at school or with their friends.”
Communication or the lack thereof between parents and their kids is a huge barrier to preventing youth suicide.
“He was fine,” said a mother from central Long Beach, whose young son killed himself. “He did not have problems at school or with his friends to what I have understood he had no problems at all and till this day, five years after he left I don’t understand why? Why did he not come to me and tell me what was wrong? I still don’t understand why he did that.”
[pullquote]“He was fine,” said a mother from central Long Beach, whose young son killed himself. “He did not have problems at school or with his friends to what I have understood he had no problems at all and till this day, five years after he left I don’t understand why? Why did he not come to me and tell me what was wrong? I still don’t understand why he did that.”[/pullquote]
For many, suicide is a difficult topic to talk about at home, but for those who may be suspicious that their child or friend might be contemplating suicide, there are resources.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline was created not only to help those with low self-esteem and those who are contemplating killing themselves, but also for those that like Ana, who are looking to feel understood and like they are being listen to.
Also, local organizations like Californians for Justice on Pine Street directly address the issues of suicide to the youth they work with.
“Every summer we have trainings on suicide to talk about this problem that might hide in the shadows because we don’t talk about it,” said CFJ organizer Kenyon Davis. “But at the end of the day there is always a person that looks for the easy way out of problems and they commit a suicidal action.”
Davis said they began to speak about suicide when they saw that low self-esteem was becoming a big issues with their youth. They were surprised to the answers to the questions at they made to the youth in a Talking Circle.
During the discussion, there were an alarmingly large number of youth that said that the thought of this easy way out had crossed their minds more than once and that it all connected back to the problems that they faced not only in there families but out in the schools and when they were out with friends.
If we take Ana’s story and the thoughts of the parent group and the story of this mother we can start to have the real conversation around suicide prevention.
“Yes this is a frame where we need to place lots of color to get a good image,” Davis said. “In other words, we must work with parents to see what can be done to prevent suicide and help the youth with low self-esteem.”
For more information on youth suicide and how to recognize and treat it, go to www.nasponline.org.