Academic journal article Research and Theory for Nursing Practice

Depression and Suicidal Ideation among Mexican American School-Aged Children

Academic journal article Research and Theory for Nursing Practice

Depression and Suicidal Ideation among Mexican American School-Aged Children

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to describe depression and suicidal ideation rates in a community sample of 182 urban fourth and fifth grade Mexican American children using the Children's Depression Inventory (CDI). We used a descriptive secondary data analysis design. The mean CDI score was 9.55 (SD = 5.8). Thirty-one percent fell in the depressed range using a clinical cut point of 12 and 7% fell into the depressed range using the non-clinical cut point of 19. Thirty-eight percent (n = 69) reported suicidal ideation. The depression rate was consistent with national rates. A non-clinical cut point of 19 showed that 87% of children reporting suicidal ideation were not identified as depressed. Many of these children do not report the most typical symptoms of depression. The results of this study provide school nurses with vital information to support efforts addressing the mental health needs of Mexican American children.

Keywords: child depression; suicide ideation; Mexican American

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents ages 13-19 during adolescence and it is strongly associated with depression (Andrews & Lewinsohn, 1992; Lewinsohn, Rohde, & Seeley, 1993; Roberts & Chen, 1995; Shaffer, Gould, et al., 1996; Sourander, Helstela, Haavisto, & Bergroth, 2001). Research shows that 90% of youth who commit suicide have an emotional disorder (Shaffer & Craft, 1999), the most common being a mood disorder (Shaffer, Gould, et al., 1996). Literature addressing psychiatric and mental health needs of children usually focuses on infancy and adolescence and refers to the grade school-aged period as latency (Silberg & Rutter, 2002). Therefore, there is a significant need to address mental health needs of children before adolescence.

There is evidence that symptoms of depression evident during adolescence begin during the younger school-age years (Domenech, Canals, & Fernandez-Ballert, 1992; Sourander et al., 2001). However, there is relatively little data on the prevalence of depression and suicidal ideation in children before adolescence separate from rates reported for adolescents. For example, the Surgeon General (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS], 1999) estimates a 6.2% prevalence rate for mood disorders among children ages 9-17. The suicide rates reported by the National Center for Health Statistics (2002) refer to children ages 13-19.

Even less is known about childhood depression and suicidal ideation among Hispanic populations. There are several reasons for this problem. First, most epidemiologic samples include an inadequate representation of Hispanics (Flores et al., 2002). Even when Hispanic youth are included in prevalence studies, the research tends to aggregate children from different Hispanic ethnicities, making it difficult to determine to which Hispanic populations the data can be generalized. The data that are available on Hispanic children usually center on children 12 years and older (Roberts, Attkisson, & Rosenblatt, 1998). The nature and rates of depression during adolescence are likely to differ with those during the school-aged years given the vast differences between these two developmental stages. Finally, investigators assessing the prevalence of childhood depression have employed a range of assessment methods and analytic approaches, each yielding different rates of depression (Roberts et al., 1998).

Data from the 2000 Census show that one in eight people in the United States is of Hispanic origin, and Hispanic youth represent 16% of the population under the age of 18 years. People of Mexican origin constitute the largest majority of Hispanics, with 66.1% of 32.8 million Hispanics in the United States of Mexican descent (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000). There are nearly 1.4 million immigrants living in the metropolitan Chicago area and that number continues to rise (Avila & Mastony, 2003). Because of the growth of the Mexican immigrant population and the challenges faced in estimating and meeting the mental health needs of Mexican American children, additional research is essential. …

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