Protective factors against suicidal behavior in Latinos

Maria A. Oquendo, Dianna Dragatsi, Jill Harkavy-Friedman, Kanita Dervic, Dianne Currier, Ainsley Keller Burke, Michael F. Grunebaum, J. John Mann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Citations (Scopus)


Latinos appear to be relatively protected against suicidal behavior, but the factors that mediate this effect are not known. Some protective factors may be related to cultural constructs that provide a buffer against suicidal behavior in the face of psychiatric illness. We sought to determine whether the Reasons for Living Inventory (RFLI) might capture protective factors against suicidal behavior in Latinos and non-Latinos. Patients with major depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia were interviewed regarding their depressive symptomatology and lifetime history of suicidal behavior. The RFLI, which measures protective factors against suicidal acts, was also administered. Multivariate analyses were used to assess the relationship between suicide measures, ethnicity, and selected clinical and demographic variables. Although Latinos and non-Latinos did not differ significantly in attempter status (attempter/nonattempter), number of attempts, or suicide intent, Latinos reported significantly less suicidal ideation and made less lethal attempts. On the RFLI, Latinos scored significantly higher on subscales regarding survival and coping beliefs, responsibility to family, and moral objections to suicide, possibly reflective of cultural norms endorsed by Latino groups. Multivariate analyses suggested that although being Latino was independently associated with less suicidal ideation, other suicidal behaviors held a stronger relationship to moral objections to suicide and survival and coping skills than to ethnicity. Self-identification as Latino may be associated with espousing cultural constructs that mediate protective effects against suicidal behavior. Constructs identified in the RFLI may protect Latinos from acting on suicidal thoughts, affecting moral objections to suicide and survival and coping beliefs. Further studies to elucidate the impact of these factors on suicidal behavior and their relationship to specific cultural constructs would be of interest.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)438-443
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Nervous and Mental Disease
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Bipolar disorder
  • Ethnicity
  • Latinos
  • Major depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Suicidal behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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