Methods: Using an experimental vignette design, we examined Latinx individuals’ attitudes and stigma-related beliefs concerning suicide. A convenience sample of 248 LatinX adults were recruited by a bilingual research team. Participants completed a survey consisting of demographic questions and standardized measures, followed by a vignette describing a person with suicidal ideation and subsequent questions assessing stigma beliefs. Vignettes were experimentally manipulated to produce six versions varied on the subject’s gender (male, female) and age (15-years, 38-years, 73-years). Public stigma was measured across five domains: personal-level stigma, community-level stigma, future potential, expected legal troubles, and capacity for change. ANCOVAs were used to examine effects of vignette subject characteristics (gender, age) and participant characteristics on public stigma.
Results: Overall, participants reported moderate levels of public stigma toward the vignette subject. When asked to identify the problem experienced by the person in the vignette, only 3% of respondents mentioned suicidal ideation or self-harm. We found lower levels of personal-level stigma, indicating that while the respondents believed that a person experiencing suicidal ideation would experience difficulty in terms of employment and building relationships, they indicated that personally they would work with, make friends with, and allow their child to marry a person with a history of suicidal ideation. ANCOVAs indicated that immigrant generation significantly predicted various stigma domains. Being older and having more children were associated with higher levels of stigma. The vignette subject’s gender and age did not impact the stigma levels.
Conclusions: Identifying early warning signs of self-harm and suicide intentions is an effective way to prevent completed suicides, yet few participants explicitly acknowledged the thoughts of self-harm present in the vignette. Unexpectedly, our results did not indicate any significant differences in stigma based on the vignette subject demographics, indicating that stigma towards a person with suicidal ideation may not be affected by the gender or age of the person experiencing suicidal thoughts. Immigrant generation, however, played an important role in our respondents’ perception of individuals experiencing suicidal ideation. Consistent with prior literature, first generation immigrants reported higher levels of community-level stigma toward the vignette subject than those from subsequent generations, indicating those who are second generation immigrants and beyond may be more highly acculturated and thus may report overall lower levels of mental health stigma. This was not the case for personal-level stigma wherein second and third generation immigrants expressed less willingness to accept those experiencing suicidal ideation. Implications for future research and for social work policy and practice with the LatinX community will be discussed.