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Suicide Prevention In Minorities/Gays

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All things in life are not pleasant and plans do not always go as planned. This is true for everyone in the world, but some people are born into situations where this feels like the norm. Suicide has been called a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but to someone who has dealt with predominately negative aspects of the world their whole life it can seem logical. The individuals I am referring to are racial and sexual minorities. Not all of these people live chronically stressed and hopeless lives, but because of their differences they are more likely to have to deal with lifetime inconveniences that could lead to suicide. Since minorities live different lives and deal with different problems their risk factors for suicide can be somewhat different (Queralt, 1993). "A risk factor is a characteristic of a large sample of people who have committed suicide, that appears to be statistically more common than would be expected" (Shea, 1999, p.69). Since the risk factors for minorities differ, so should the method of assessing them. Latino Americans, African Americans, and gay Americans are the minority groups I will be examining in relation to risk factors. By looking at these groups' different risk factors and how they come about, suicide prevention and assessment can be done much more efficiently.

As an area loses its jobs people that can leave usually do leave, and those that cannot afford to leave must find another way to survive. This is how a community begins its social isolation (Kubrin, Wadsworth, DiPietro, 2006). This results in working below one's means or turning to illegitimate methods (Kubrin, Wadsworth, DiPietro, 2006). In extremely poor neighborhoods a culture that legitimizes crime will develop, and most of the time people living in those neighborhoods are African American (Kubrin, Wadsworth, DiPietro, 2006). This does not mean that African Americans are prone to a culture that values crime; it means that crime is a byproduct of the economy.

Being socially isolated in a bleak, crime-filled environment leads to feelings of hopelessness and despair. These variables are "key determinants of the relationship between structural disadvantage and suicide for young black males" (Kubrin, Wadsworth, DiPietro, 2006). So, if one were to assess a young black individual from a disadvantaged neighborhood, placing more emphasis on the aforementioned variables would present a much more accurate assessment.

Common reasons for someone to attempt suicide include relationship breakups, school problems, financial problems, chronic stress or failure (Queralt, 1993). When looking at these common reasons in a middle class white individual they seem to be very cut and dry, but when looking at these reasons in a Latino American there can be variables that are overlooked. Is the chronic stress a result of "conflict between the values and expectations of their culture and the host culture" (Queralt, 1993)? Are the problems in school stemming from a language barrier? Did the financial problems arise due to migration (Queralt, 1993)? It seems that these questions would be indirectly covered in an assessment, but taking these aspects into account would help the assessor gain a more accurate idea of the level of risk.

One problem that can lead to suicide with racial minority youths has its roots in identity (DiPilato, 1993). "Although identity consolidation is a life long process, adolescence is recognized as a developmental period in which identity issues, because of universal cognitive and physiologic changes, are dominant. Identity formation is described as a process in which successive identifications with parents, siblings, peers, teachers, folk heroes, and cultural groups are synthesized into a coherent, consistent, and unique whole. This process is particularly difficult when the transmission of a coherent sense of cultural heritage and ethnic identity is absent" (DiPilato, 1993). Imagine being Latino but not knowing any of the cultural aspects of being Latino.

In 1993 Marina DiPlato chronicled the treatment an adolescent that was going through an identity crisis. This girl, Jane, was of half European and half Latino dissent. For the most part Jane did not have contact with her Latino father, or any positive Latino individuals, and in turn internalized many negative stereotypes. With an unstable home and an overall feeling of not being accepted Jane joined a gang and even attempted suicide. This is how she ended up in a psychiatric hospital in New Mexico.

"The best prospect for therapeutic change for Jane involved resuming the developmental process of identity formation in a manner that would enhance positive growth. This involved addressing issues of cultural identity, a crucial aspect of both confusion and strength for Jane" (DiPilato, 1993). Eventually, this treatment led the patient to have a balanced and positive view of herself which alleviated the self-destructive behavior that was initially present (DiPilato, 1993). What if the treatment centered around gang activity and the suicide attempt? What if the psychiatric hospital totally disregarded the cultural aspect? I do not believe that things would have worked out the way they did. In this case the treatment was culture specific and led to a successful recovery.

The final group of people I would like to discuss are members of every racial group in existence, gays. Being gay in itself is a risk factor, and in a way it is not. This is to say that having feelings of attraction for someone of the same sex does NOT make a person more prone to suicide, but the



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