By Queens Courier,
NEW YORK - The high suicide rate among teen Latinas in New York City has finally caught the public's attention.
According to a survey conducted in 2009 by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, one out of every nine Latina teens, or 11 percent, attempted suicide in the United States that year.
In Queens alone, the recorded cases have been alarming. An incredible 50 percent of Elmhurst Hospital's adolescent patients seeking mental help are Latinos.
Imelda Martinez, 23, recalled having suicidal thoughts when she was 19.
"It was a terrible time, having a bad relationship with my boyfriend and the treatment I received from my mother made matters worse," said Martinez, who lives in Astoria.
Research studies found by the CDC found that Hispanics have the highest unmarried birthrates nationally. Some reports link the high rates of suicides among Latinas to their living conditions. One reason is that many young Latinas take on adult responsibilities before their time. Another reason was because young Latinas have the highest teenage pregnancy rate.
Martinez remembered the stressful situation her mother was put under, when her father abandoned them. Her mother was left with the financial burden to provide for her, along with her two younger siblings. Martinez, being the eldest, felt the greatest impact.
"I was only 15, and all of a sudden I was given the responsibility to look after my siblings," Martinez said. "On top of that, my mother released her anger on me."
Luckily, Martinez avoided the path of being a teenage mother with the boyfriend with whom she had a rocky relationship.
"I don't know where I would be if I would have gotten pregnant," Martinez said. "It would have thrown me off the edge."
Congresswoman Nydia M. Velazquez (D-District 12), who represents Ridgewood, Maspeth, and Woodside, publicly revealed that she once too believed that the only option she had was to take her own life. However, today she is working to empower young Hispanic females and encouraged them to seek help.
Velazquez secured a $167,000 federal grant to help to expand Life is Precious, a program that provides culturally relevant and family oriented services to Hispanic teens and their families.
With various counseling sessions and bonding with her mother, Martinez was able to resolve her issues.
"Counseling and the bond I then began to have with my mother helped me be myself again and gain my self-esteem, which lead me to move on from the relationship I had," Martinez said.