Sunday, November 18, 2007

Report: Latino Teens under Stress

What this article doesn't mention is how schools are primary "acculturative stressors. The community needs much more community-based control and decision-making over the education of their children than they already have. Some call this parent involvement. I think that community-based control and decision-making are potentially more empowering concepts given that the former doesn't necessarily imply the latter.

Depression and suicide are also transnational issues. According to one news account, there are two suicides every week in Leon, Guanajuato, the fourth or fifth largest city in Mexico.



Friday, November 9, 2007
Report: Latino Teens under Stress

9 November 2007

Michele Angél

AUSTIN, November 9 - Latino teens are disproportionately affected by
stressful living conditions that are jeopardizing their present and
future health, according to a new report.

The Texas Department of State Health Services* Infectious Disease
Control Unit says researchers and mental health professionals should pay
special attention to Latino youth, as they may be both at high risk and
the most amenable to prevention and intervention of all populations.

The bulletin reports that segments of the Latino adolescent population
experience a complex set of issues, including developmental and cultural
changes, which increases their levels of stress.

Stressful living conditions include poverty, lack of health insurance,
high school drop-out rates, high teenage pregnancy rates, increasing
health problems like obesity, HIV infections, substance abuse and

According to "Current Perspectives on Stress among Latino Adolescents,"
Latinos will reach one quarter of the U.S. population, or about 97
million, by the year 2050. One-third of those, it states, will be under
the age of nineteen.

The paper, recapped in the bulletin, was presented recently at the
National Hispanic Science Network on Drug Abuse Fourth Annual National
Scientific Conference.

"We are always concerned with stress management and making sure people
make the right decisions to take care of their mental health, as well as
their physical health," said TDSHS spokesperson Carrie Williams. "We
felt this was an important topic and wanted to share this information."

The paper states that in some Latino adolescents, stress is manifested
in mental health problems such as generalized anxiety, depression, and
suicide. It notes that Latino adolescents disproportionately suffer from
some mental health disorders and many also engage in risky behaviors
such as substance abuse and unprotected sex.

From the few studies of protective factors and coping skills in
Latinos, the report notes, a natural social support system is being
identified as a crucial preventive factor to cope with stress,
marginalization, racism and other stressors suffered by minorities.

"Familismo" and "colectivismo" are powerful protective factors,
according to the report, which recognizes a link between lack of family
and stress. The report adds that parental involvement is considered
critical to prevent mental health problems and other consequences in
Latino adolescents, and adolescents in general.

In addition, other studies show the importance of emotional support
from peers to Latino adolescents and youth.

The report lists a study which showed that Latina adolescents had the
highest rate of suicide attempts compared to other ethnic-gender groups.
In addition, Latinas in the study also had relatively high reports of
sexual abuse and suicide attempts by family members and friends.

Latinas also have alarmingly higher rates of depression: 27 percent,
according to researchers. Additionally, Latinas were the second highest
group to report depressive symptoms.

Acculturation stress, due to conflictive gender roles in adolescent
Latinas, is believed to be the driving force of their higher rates of
stress, depression and suicides, according to the National Coalition of
Hispanic Health and Human Services.

"In addition to normative stress that most non-minority adolescents
face, Latinos also have to confront additional stressors related to
prejudice and hostility, marginalization, racism and xenophobia,
poverty, environmental risks, cultural and language barriers, and
immigration challenges," the report highlighted.

According to U.S. Census data, two out of five Latinos are
foreign-born. The DSHS reports that immigrants pay a high price in costs
and risks during their immigration journey and adjustment to their new
environment, placing them at high risk for mental health problems.

The report states that Mexican origin population is the largest of all
Latino groups.

Researchers also found that women and girls face additional risks of
being physically and sexually abused, raped, robbed or even murdered on
their journey. Perhaps most stressful, parents sometimes separate from
their children to cross the border.

Separation and the dependence on strangers, the report notes, can be
truly terrifying and one of the most stressful experiences suffered by
Latino adolescents.

The disadvantage of poverty means that both parents may have to work
outside the home, leaving some children and adolescents without
supervision and sometimes with the responsibility of raising younger
siblings, since daycare is very expensive.

Adolescents may even be encouraged to contribute to the family income
by working.

The report finds that the consequences of poverty, marginalization,
segregation and distress, are the cause of other future problems.

Certain segments of the Latino adolescents, who are concentrated in
urban barrios, face violence, drug and alcohol use, gangs, academic
failure, delinquency and unsafe sexual promiscuity.

The authors of the paper pointed out that psychological stress can
depress the immune system, noting also that health problems of young
Latinos have been on the rise.

Latino adolescents who have high self-esteem are more likely to cope
with stress, according to the researchers. They add that adolescent
self-esteem develops from within and through empowerment and
acknowledgment from parents, peers, teachers and community.

The report adds that Latino adolescents* ethnic identity plays an
important part on their self-esteem building. The development of an
ethnic identity to achieve a secure sense of themselves helps to develop
self-esteem and to have better mental health overall.

The report was prepared by Richard C. Cervantes, Maria J. Zarza and
David Salinas, from Behavioral Assessment, Incorporated, out of Los
Angeles, California.

TDSHS has mental health hospitals and the Division of Mental Health and
Substance Abuse Services.

* Copyright of the Vox Veritas Corporation dba Rio Grande Guardian,; Melinda Barrera, President, 2007. All
rights reserved.

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