Exploring the Mental Health Needs of the Adolescent Latinx/Hispanic Community

Through regular, thoughtful examination of annual local Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) findings, the PRCHN’s YRBS Advisory Committee helps identify areas of concern for elevation to increase community awareness. Over the past few years, Latinx/Hispanic students have reported an alarming prevalence of depressive symptoms. 

With an award from the Schubert Center Seed Grant Competition for Child and Adolescent Research, Dr. Erika Trapl is leading a team of collaborators including Hispanic UMADAOP of Cleveland, Esperanza, Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, and members of the PRCHN Adolescent Surveillance and Evaluation interdisciplinary team led by Marisa Hollinshead, BS, MD Candidate, with Jean Frank, MPH, Sarah Koopman-Gonzalez, PhD, and Heather Baily, MA  to identify specific mental health needs of this unique Latinx/Hispanic adolescent population.

Along with CC-YRBS data, the team will conduct focus groups and semi-structured interviews with 14-18-year-old Latinx/Hispanic adolescents. Insights gained through this project may eventually lead to development of new evidence-based interventions and research-informed best practices. depressed Latina girlResponses to the question “During the past 12 months, did you ever feel so sad or hopeless for two or more weeks in a row that you stopped doing some usual activities?” has been the focus of increased concern over the past few years. This one item assesses three indicators of a major depressive episode: experience of 1) extended 2) sadness and hopelessness resulting in 3) interruptions of usual activities, in other words, depressive symptoms. Local responses to this question in 2013 revealed a high prevalence in our local adolescents (1 out of 5 students reporting depressive symptoms), with a higher rate among Latinx/Hispanic students (more than 1 in 3), particularly Latina/Hispanic females (almost 50% or 1 out of every 2). The trend of highest prevalence of depressive symptoms being reported by the Latinx students as compared to white, black and other/multiple races has continued in the nearly 14,000 surveys analyzed in 2017. 

Students who report depressive symptoms are more likely to engage in risk behaviors. At both the middle- and high-school level Cuyahoga County students reporting depressive symptoms in 2017 were significantly more likely to have tried cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, illicit drugs, and unprescribed pain medications than students who did not report depressive symptoms. In addition, the overall prevalence rates of high school students who reported purposely hurting themselves and ever considered suicide were more than 4 times greater for those who reported depressive symptoms compared with those who did not report depressive symptoms. All CC-YRBS reports, data briefs, and infographics are available online.