Family and racial factors associated with suicide and emotional distress among Latino students

Carolyn Garcia, Carol Skay, Renee Sieving, Sandy Naughton, Linda H. Bearinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Background: Latino youth experience disproportionate rates of mental health problems including suicide and depression. Better understanding of underlying risk and protective factors on the part of school-based health professionals, teachers, and health care providers in their lives is warranted. The aims of this secondary analysis of 2004 Minnesota Student Survey data were to (1) describe the mental health status of a statewide sample of Latino 9th- and 12th-grade students; (2) explore relationships of family protective factors (communication, caring, and connection) with suicidal ideation, suicidal attempts, and emotional distress; and (3) highlight similarities and differences in family protective factors among subgroups of Latino students. Methods: Parallel analyses were completed for Latino-only and Latino-mixed students. Bivariate logistic regression models were used to examine associations between each family variable and each study outcome. Results: Nearly 1 in 5 Latino high school students have had suicidal thoughts in the past year; past year suicide attempts ranged from 6% to 18.5% across grade and gender subgroups. Most concerning are ninth-grade Latino girls, a group in which 30-40% reported suicidal thoughts and 14-19% reported attempting suicide in the past year. Conclusions: An important study finding is the high rate of suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and emotional distress among students who self-identified as being of mixed ethnicity. Study findings can be used to inform mental health promotion initiatives and culturally tailor interventions with Latino students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-495
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of School Health
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2008


  • Adolescent
  • Emotional distress
  • Latino
  • Mental health
  • Mixed ethnicity


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