In The Wake Of Young Woman’s Suicide Uptown, Alcántara And Others Support “Life is Precious”

September 27, 2017

Upper Manhattan is the epicenter of this epidemic…

State Senator Marisol Alcántara together with State Senator Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda, mental health advocates, and members of the school community, unveiled $400,000 in state funding for a “Life is Precious” suicide prevention program that is focused on young Latinas.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and has steadily increased from 2006 to 2015.1 Although New York State’s suicide rate (7.81 per 100,000 individuals) is significantly lower than the national average (13.26 per 100,000 individuals), when reviewing particular demographic groups, the numbers are quite dire.[1] Suicide is the fourth and third leading cause of death for New Yorkers aged 10-14 and 15-24, respectively.2 Even more disheartening, the Office of Mental Health found in Latinas aged 15-19, suicide is the second leading cause of death.3 Furthermore, Latina teens have shown higher rates of attempted suicide than any other youth group. One in four of New York State’s Hispanic youth considered suicide in 2015 and one in seven attempted suicide.

Comunilife is a community-based health and housing provider that was founded in 1989. Comunilife operates a mental health clinic in the South Bronx called the Vida Guidance Center, which provides 23,000 outpatient visits annually. The organization also owns or manages 1,636 units of transitional and permanent housing for homeless adults who struggle with HIV/AIDS, mental health and chronic health issues. In 2008, Comunilife began its Life is Precious program to provide educational support, counseling and wellness activities to Latina teens, aged 12-17, who have struggled with suicide. The organization has three program sites located in Bushwick (Brooklyn), Long Island City (Queens), and the South Bronx, with over 270 Latina graduates from the program.

This year’s joint funding of $400,000 will enable the program to expand into Manhattan. The funding will be used to increase the number of at-risk teens receiving services and expand outreach in middle and high schools. Through outreach, educators learn about suicide ideation and how to recognize when a teen may be at risk. Through student workshops, teens learn that they and their friends are not alone and that help is available.

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“There is an epidemic of suicide among young Latinas, a reality that was brought home to the Upper Manhattan last week with the suicide of a 24-year-old woman, Kariellis Jimenez, who was a beloved member of our community. I am proud to offer this funding to the community to help prevent more such deaths. The most important thing for everyone to take to heart is to be open and loving to those in our lives with mental illness. We must be unafraid of the stigma that surrounds mental illness, and encourage everyone to come forward with their stories and their troubles. Strong people have the strength to admit where they are weak, and to ask for help when they need it. I also urge Governor Cuomo to sign my bill, the Adolescent Suicide Prevention Act, which would help us understand why this epidemic is especially prevalent among Latina teens.” said State Senator Marisol Alcántara.

“Life is Precious has an excellent track record helping Latina teens who have seriously considered or attempted suicide. I’ve helped fund this program since 2015, and I’m proud to again this year provide $400,000 in joint funding with Senator Marisol Alcántara to Comunilife. The year’s allocation will enable the program to expand into Upper Manhattan and reach even more at-risk teens,” said Senator Jeff Klein.

“I know personally the loss of a loved one by suicide, and I often question what might have been done to prevent it. In this case, thousands of adolescent Latinos, already going through emotionally-charged years, are dying or injuring themselves. What cost can you put on a human life? Right now, there is too little budgeted for state prevention programs in general, and none specifically for Latinos, although the numbers show they are the most at-risk. Please governor, sign this bill. It is the right thing to do,” said Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda

We are grateful to the New York State Senate and Senators Marisol Alcántara and Jeff Klein for allocating the funding that will allow us to provide targeted suicide prevention education and outreach activities to schools with a large number of at-risk Latina teens. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for teens in New York State. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19% of Latina teens in Manhattan seriously considered suicide, 12% attempted suicide in 2015, and Upper Manhattan is the epicenter of this epidemic. By working with school personnel all students will benefit.” said Dr. Rosa Gil, Executive Director of Comunilife Inc.

Suicide Statistics. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, available at here. Accessed September 22, 2017.

Suicide: New York 2017 Facts and Figures. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, available here.

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