Suicide among Latinos in California doubles

Suicides doubled among California Hispanics between 1999 and 2016, a period in which more than 10,000 Latinos took their lives, reveals an analysis of the relationship between this phenomenon and firearms.

The “Hispanic / Latino Suicides in California” study found that in 1999 the death of 415 Latinos was linked to suicide, while in 2016 the number reached 848, more than double that of 17 years earlier.

The researchers stress that Hispanic men in this western state of the country have a greater tendency to voluntarily end their lives than women.

Of the 10,445 reported cases of suicide between 1999 and 2016, 8,624 of the victims were men and 1,821 were women. Despite the lower number of Latina suicides, this figure registered an increase of almost 300% in the analyzed period, from 52 cases in 1999 to 154 victims in 2016.

Of the 10,445 Hispanics who took their lives in California in that period, 3,402 used a firearm to kill themselves, highlights the analysis conducted by Violence Policy Center (VPC), which aims to draw attention to the role they play in the Death of Latinos in the Golden State.

“The violent death of Latinos in California and across the country is often seen too often only through the lens of crime and homicide,” VPC director Josh Sugarman said Tuesday.

The researcher stressed the need to provide information based on Hispanic victims of suicide to increase public understanding of the issue, especially in California, a state “leader in progressive violence prevention strategies,” he said.

The report highlights that among the 16,633 Latinos killed by a firearm in California between 1999-2016, 20% corresponds to Hispanics who committed suicide, the rest were classified as homicides and a few accidental deaths involving a weapon.

The study also found that almost 25% of all Latinos who took their lives between 1999 and 2016 are Hispanic between 10 and 24 years old, and that of those 2,556 cases, a third used a firearm to do so.

Sugarman clarifies that, although the overall suicide rate increased over time, the use of firearms decreased over the 17-year period, which opens a new window of hope to address these two phenomena.

Aware of the problem in California, state authorities and organizations have endeavored to undertake prevention and assistance programs.

In this new school year, a state law came into force that requires the credentials of seventh through twelfth grade students in California to have the National Suicide Prevention Line telephone number printed.

The measure also authorizes educational institutions to print on either side of the credential the police phone number or the student campus security office and a local hotline telephone number for suicide prevention, among others.

Among the campaigns aimed at the Latino community is the one headed by Bertha Loaiza, known as “the miracle girl” for surviving a fall of almost 75 meters (246 feet) when her mother threw herself in her arms from a bridge in San Diego.

In an interview, Loaiza stressed that, for Hispanics, the issue remains a taboo. He also says that talking about mental problems is associated with the stigma of “madness”, something that nobody wants in his family.

“It is necessary to put the face and understand that this is happening to our youth and Latinos,” Loaiza said.

Concern about the links between firearms and suicide led to the California Assembly an initiative that aims to fight these two phenomena.

Current law requires that the packaging of any firearm be labeled with a hazard warning statement.

The new bill would require that, as of June 2020, a specific statement on suicide prevention be included on hazard warning labels and that the same information be published on the premises of each licensed arms dealer.