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Immigrants More Likely to Commit Suicide After Divorce, Study Finds

A study of Riverside County residents co-authored by a team of sociologists found that divorced immigrants are more than twice as likely to commit suicide as native-born Americans who are divorced.

The study published in Archives of Suicide Research in March was co-authored by Augustine J. Kposowa, a sociology professor at the University of California at Riverside UCR, Riverside County Sheriff’s Capt. James P. McElvain, who holds a Ph.D. in sociology from UCR, and sociology professor Kevin D. Breault of Middle Tennessee State University.

They  also found that the longer immigrants lived in the United States, the less likely they were to kill themselves.

The authors said the findings, based on death records and census reports, indicate that policies aimed at reducing suicide should address depression, anxiety and acculturation-stress problems in immigrant communities, especially among new arrivals.

“It is likely that those new to the country have fewer social-support systems and also possess relatively little knowledge about utilizing options for seeking help in times of crisis, including suicide prevention hotlines and mental health clinics,” they said.

The researchers focused on Riverside County,  one of the fastest-growing  in the nation. In 2000, nearly one in five residents of the county was born outside the United States. About 15 percent of  suicide victims in the county over age 15 were immigrants. The county’s average suicide rate in 2000-2002 was 10.4 per 100,000, slightly above the state average of 9.1 per 100,000, researchers said.

Immigrants who had lived in the United States for 10 to 19 years were more than three times as likely to commit suicide as were those who had lived in the country for 20 years or more, the sociologists said.

“The main finding of this research was that social integration offers important immunity from suicide among immigrants,” the researchers wrote. “. . . Social integration is critical with regard to the ability to obtain the skills and networks needed for gainful employment and the fulfillment of economic desires.”

Failure to achieve financial success “may elevate suicide risk for the immigrant who cannot embrace the shame of returning home,” the researchers said.

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