Immigration Status and Risk Factors for Suicidal Ideation and Attempts among Latinos in the United States

Amanda de Jesús, Fordham University


Latinos in the United States are a growing, dynamic, and diverse group. This paper will highlight the immigration statuses of Latinos as it relates to their mental health and suicidal ideation. The groups include those who were born in the U.S. as citizens, those who migrated from another country and became U.S. citizens, those who have legal status (visa, Green Card, etc.), and those without legal immigration status (undocumented persons). Distinctions among these four groups will be examined in order to develop a better understanding of the strengths and challenges of each group. Latino immigrants face a number of challenges: acculturation difficulties, separation from their families when leaving their country of origin, and discrimination in the U.S. Latinos born in the U.S. face similar challenges, including discrimination and acculturation issues like feeling torn between their native cultural norms and U.S. cultural norms. Citizenship status will be examined in relation to suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. The history of Latino immigration to the U.S. and the history of an anti-immigrant climate in the U.S. will be discussed. The healthy migrant effect and perceived discrimination theory frame this study, and offer explanations of the dynamics and stressors of migration, and risk and protective effects on suicidal ideation and attempts. In the Latino subsample, individuals whose primary language spoken at home was not English (p = .044, OR = .21) and those who reported discrimination (p = .021, OR = 4.8) were more likely to have a history of suicide attempts. Non-citizens and those who became citizens in the whole sample were 1.4 times less likely to report suicidal ideation (p = .024, OR = 1.4) and 5 times less likely to make a suicide attempt (p =.006, OR = 4.9) than U.S.-born citizens. The study found that Latino non-citizens and non-Latino non-citizens who had a higher level of education were more at risk for suicidal ideation. Throughout the whole sample, having a bachelor’s degree or higher (p = .034, OR = 0.61) and a higher income (p =.009, OR = 0.84) increased the likelihood of making a suicide attempt. Possible explanations for these findings are presented, and suggestions for future research and clinical implications are discussed.

Subject Area

Mental health|Social work

Recommended Citation

de Jesús, Amanda, "Immigration Status and Risk Factors for Suicidal Ideation and Attempts among Latinos in the United States" (2021). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI28262956.