Abstract: Contexts, Experiences, and Responses to Suicide Attempts By Colombian Adolescent Females (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

175P Contexts, Experiences, and Responses to Suicide Attempts By Colombian Adolescent Females

Friday, January 17, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Maria Samira de la Pava Gutierrez, MSci, Clinician - Neuropsychologist, Centro Integral de Neurodesarrollo AV, Bogota, Colombia
Carolina Hausmann-Stabile, PhD, Assistant Professor, Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, PA
Nicole Fedoravicius, MPH, Independent Consultant, Research Consultant, MO
Olga Albornoz, MD, Professor, Universidad del Rosario, Bogota, Colombia
Angela Velez, MD, Professor, Universidad del Rosario, Bogota, Colombia
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE. In Colombia, pediatric suicidal behaviors are a serious public health concern. In 2017, there were 3,330 suicide attempts among children between the ages of 10 and 14, and 7,665 among youth between 15 and 19 years of age (Minsalud, 2017). Colombian adolescent females attempt more often than their male counterparts. Little is known, however, about why so many Colombian girls attempt suicide. Previous research with suicidal Latina teens has described the central role of family conflict in setting the conditions for suicidal behaviors among adolescent females (Gulbas et al., 2012, Peña et al, 2011). This study extends research conducted in the United States with suicidal Latinas to Colombia, to describe the contexts in which the girls’ suicidal behaviors emerge, the teens’ internal experiences leading to a suicide attempt, their suicidal attempts, and the immediate familial responses to a suicide attempt. Participants were suicidal adolescent females growing up in poverty in Bogota.  

METHODS.  The data presented are drawn from a mixed-method pilot study that examined the contexts, experiences, and responses to suicide attempts from the perspective of a group of Colombian adolescent females (aged 13-17, x = 14.9).  All data were collected between 2017 and 2018. Participants (n = 15) were recruited from a public hospital located in a low-income area in Bogota. Univariate descriptive were performed on all the numerical variables studied. Qualitative data were analyzed using a combination of content and thematic analysis. The analysis was divided into three steps: (a) data coding, (b) univariate statistics with quantified qualitative data, and (c) development and analysis of a matrix of coded text. The data coding and quantification was performed using Dedoose.

RESULTS. All participants reported exposure to chronic, escalating stressors at home (e.g., conflicts with caregivers), combined with episodic traumatic events (e.g., sexual assault). Conflicts with primary caregivers left the teens feeling isolated, unsupported, and hopeless. A traumatic event increased the girls’ negative feelings, leading to a suicide attempt as a means to end their emotional suffering. Most participants reported intent of dying (n = 14). Some carefully planned their attempts to maximize the likelihood of a deadly outcome (n = 3). Eight participants (53%) reported attempting suicide by overdosing, while five participants attempted suicide by cutting (33%). When the suicide attempts were disclosed or discovered, most caregivers reacted with perplexity and/or anger (n = 12). Caregivers’ responses to the teens’ suicide attempts further confirmed the girls’ feelings of isolation and lack of support.

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS. This study provides further confirmation of the role that conflicts between the adolescent and her caregivers play in setting the conditions for suicidal behaviors among Latina adolescent females. To reduce suicidal behaviors among adolescent females in Bogota, public health efforts should address intra-familial conflict between teens and caregivers. Mental health providers serving suicidal teens should work with caregivers to improve their emotional response to their daughters’ suicidal crisis.