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What's needed to fight increasing suicide rates among Hispanic adults

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Posted at 11:34 AM, Oct 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-28 12:34:06-04

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — The pandemic revealed a deep mental health care crisis across our country, but research shows some communities struggled with mental health more than others—even before COVID hit.

New research found that between 2010 and 2020, the suicide rate among Hispanic adults increased by more than 70%, and experts predict that number to be even higher once the full impact of the pandemic is understood.

It’s a statistic behavioral health therapist Anaísa Lúa fights against every day she sees her clients. She helps teens and adults work through mental health struggles, specifically within the Hispanic community.

“Culturally appropriate care is really honoring these cultural traditions that our community has, and that can be a pretty impactful and hopefully rewarding and healing experience,” she said.

Lúa is a therapist at Servicios de la Raza in Colorado. She’s seen a big increase in Hispanic teens and adults in her community reaching out for help. Many, she said, struggle with finding a sense of belonging.

“We see a lot with our undocumented population, just an ongoing sense of fear and insecurity. It's the trauma that has been experienced within generations,” said Lúa.

She said young people and adults come to her both feeling drained for different reasons.

“Our youth has also reported an increase in suicidal ideation and self-harm, and a lot tends to be related to social isolation,” said Lúa. “As for our adults, I think it's been hard for them to catch a break. They've had to work throughout the pandemic, and so that has been very difficult for them when it comes to kind of processing some of the grief or stressors that have come about.”

The experiences Lúa sees with her clients are happening nationwide. Professor Jagdish Khubchandani, of New Mexico State University, documented the 70% increase in suicide for Hispanic adults between 2010 and 2020 in a new study.

He said suicides among Hispanic women are rising especially fast, and that’s why it’s critical to get more representative health care providers.

“As of today, less than 10% of mental health providers in the united states are Hispanic, whereas the population of Hispanics is more than 20%,” said Khubchandani.

He also said slowing this trend starts with educating the community about what mental health care is to reduce stigma and making therapy more affordable and accessible to Spanish-speaking communities.

“There is this stigma that our communities are not seeking help because of the stigma. But I would say there is a lot of community that is yearning for help and is looking for those resources, and they are coming up against a lot of barriers,” said Lúa.

Lúa believes that with more access to affordable care, better health for an entire population can follow.

“We definitely deserve to have access to care and not just in moments of crisis, but as a way to prevent our communities getting to that place,” said Lúa. “I do hope that individuals that have power kind of look at those statistics and allow for change to kind of trickle down.”

If you would like to connect with Servicios de la Raza, click HERE.