Attempted suicide of ethnic minority girls with a Caribbean and Cape Verdean background: Rates and risk factors

Diana D. van Bergen, Merijn Eikelenboom, Petra P. van de Looij-Jansen

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Background: WHO data shows that female immigrants in Europe attempt suicide at higher rates than 'native' women and 'native' and immigrant men. Empirical studies addressing attempted suicide of female immigrants of Caribbean (Antillean-Dutch and Creole-Surinamese-Dutch) as well as Cape Verdean descent in Europe are however scarce. We aim to increase knowledge about rates and risk factors of girls of Caribbean and Cape Verdean descent living in the Netherlands. Methods: We conducted logistic regression on a dataset that consisted of self-reported health and well-being surveys filled out by 5611 female students, age 14-16, in Rotterdam, the Netherlands (Antillean Dutch N = 357, Creole-Surinamese-Dutch N = 130, and Cape Verdean-Dutch N = 402, and Dutch 'natives' N = 4691). We studied if girls of these minority groups had elevated risk for attempted suicide. Risk indicators that were suspected to play a role were investigated i.e. household composition, socio-economic class, externalizing problems, emotional problems and sexual abuse. Results: We found that rates of attempted suicide among Antillean (14%), Creole-Surinamese young women (15.4%) were higher than of 'native' Dutch girls (9.1%), while rates of Cape-Verdean girls (8.3%) were rather similar to those of 'native' girls. Not living with two biological parents was a risk factor for 'native' girls, but not for girls of Caribbean and Cape Verdean descent. Emotional problems and sexual abuse seems to be a risk indicator for suicidality across all ethnicities. Aggressive behaviour was a risk factor for Antillean Dutch and 'native' girls. Conclusions: Our findings underscore the need for developing suicide prevention programs for minority girls in multicultural cities in western Europe, in particular those of Caribbean descent. Results suggest the importance of addressing socio-economic class and educational background for suicide prevention, which bear particular relevance for Caribbean populations. Referral in the case of sexual trauma and low psychological wellbeing seems critical for reducing suicidal behaviour in girls, regardless of ethnicity.
Original languageEnglish
Article number14
JournalBMC psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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