Methods: We performed a systematic review of peer reviewed publications published from 2000 to the present reporting on the prevalence of suicidal ideation, planning, and attempts among youth ages 10 to 24 in Latin American and Caribbean countries. The search terms included: prevalence, suicidal ideation, planning, and attempts, among others. Articles were identified through EBSCO, Google Scholar, Medline, LILACS, and PsychInfo searched. In addition, reference lists of relevant articles were reviewed. Articles were published in English, Spanish, or Portuguese (n=33).
Results: Suicidal ideation, planning, and attempt prevalence rates among youth varied greatly across the countries of interest. Many of the studies collected data using questions modeled after the U.S. CDC Youth Risk Behaviors Survey (12%). The majority of studies reported prevalence rates in community-based samples (85%) ranging from 195 to participants 22,962 (mean= 7,150.26; SD=13,407.62). Among community based samples, the prevalence of suicidal ideation ranged from 1.6% to 48%, planning from 1.8% to 34% and suicide attempts from 2.2% to 61%. Among clinical samples ranging from 298 participants to 73,000 (mean=711, SD= 584.07), the prevalence of suicide attempts ranged between 3.5% and 80.4%. Only 42% of studies reported the prevalence of suicidal behaviors by gender, 3% by sexual identity, and 33% by socioeconomic status.
Conclusions and Implications: The literature on Latin American youth suicidal behaviors described great prevalence disparities by type of behavior. This research is plagued by methodological limitations, including the omission of disparity in suicidal behavior by gender, sexual identity, and socioeconomic status. Improving the quality of the research on suicidal behaviors among Latin American youth should be a priority for social workers interested in developing prevention and intervention strategies.