Strike A Chord: Girls Share a Precious Time After School
After a suicide attempt, support is critical, and people are willing to help. As part of WFUV's Strike a Chord campaign on teen suicide prevention, we visited a very special after-school program.
13 year-old Ace comes here almost every afternoon.
"I like it a lot," she said. "I've made tons of friends and they're the kind of people that I know I can rely on."
Ace is not her real name. That is being witheld to protect her anonymity. She, and most of the girls at Life is Precious have considered suicide or have hurt themselves. The program was founded to decrease those behaviors in a particularly at-risk group - teenage Latinas.
"Prevalence is higher amongst Latina teens," said Beatriz Coronel, program director of Life is Precious. "That's why we are focusing on Latina teens are we're getting our funding to target this population."
Statistics from the Center for Disease Control show in New York City and across the nation, young Latinas consider and attempt suicide more than any other racial category. Coronel has a theory that the immigrant experience dilutes the family-oriented Latino culture.
"The American culture is very independent, very competitive," she said. "You're on your own, you gotta figure things out on your own, so they lose that support. That's one of the main reasons and that's why they become hopeless, and disconnected."
But, she says other factors are also surely to blame, like a higher rate of poverty.
The program is housed in an office building near St. Barnabas Hospital in the Belmont neighborhood of the Bronx. Life is Precious was created by community health provider Comunilife in 2008. It has since expanded, with groups also meeting in Brooklyn and Queens.
Staff, volunteers, and the girls in the program work together to build a community of hope. They cook and eat together every night. Art lines the walls. And they play music - on this day, an acoustic guitar-led sing-a-long of Magic!'s "Rude." Ace is pretty new to Life is Precious, but her family is already seeing changes.
"Yeah my mom's very glad that I'm here because I'm getting to express myself more," she said. "She thinks the program has helped me a lot since I've been here. I talk more. I'm not the quiet person that I was when I started."
Ace said it has become a place where she feels safe.
See our other stories in the Strike a Chord series here:
Thursday: Does Bullying Cause Suicide?
Wednesday:What's a School to Do?