Latina teens have alarmingly high rates of seriously considering or attempting suicide. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth High Risk Behavior Survey, in 2013, 15.6% of Latina adolescents in the US tried to take their own lives one or more times. In New York City, the number for the same group was 13.3%; in Brooklyn 16.4%; in Staten Island 13.6%; Bronx 11.9%; Queens 12.8%; and Manhattan 13%. Latina teens attempt suicide at rates far greater than their non-Hispanic counterparts – more than twice the rate of white youth in New York City (13.3% vs. 5.9%).
In 2008, Comunilife created Life is Precious™ (LIP) to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate educational support, creative art therapy, and wellness activities to Latina
teens, aged 12 to 17, who have seriously considered or attempted suicide and their families. Originally opened in the Bronx, a Brooklyn site opened in 2009 with funding from Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez and expanded to Long Island City, Queens in January 2015.
Today, 120 teens from Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens participate in LIP. All come from low-income families and most live in New York City’s poorest communities. LIP’s goal is to eliminate suicide by Latina adolescents by giving them tools that build their resistance and provide the skills to succeed.
To meet the cultural and linguistic needs of the teens and their families, all program activities are available in English and Spanish. In addition, Comunilife educates the community on Latino Adolescent Suicide and, in 2010, initiated a public service campaign designed to bring attention to the epidemic.
In 2012, Comunilife began working with Columbia University/New York State Psychiatric Institute to evaluate LIP’s outcomes. Preliminary data shows that for every month a teen is enrolled in Life is Precious their level of suicide ideation and depression works. Anecdotally, we know that LIP works. The teens are improving academically, have better relationships with their families and have the inner resources to expression their emotions. Most importantly, we know that of the more than 200 Latina adolescents who have participated in Life is Precious, not one has completed suicide.