Let’s Talk About It: Latino Men Suicides

Words by Zoraya Berlanga

Edited by Abigail Vela

Content Warning: Topics about self-harm/suicide that may be distressing to readers. 

What crosses your mind in 40 seconds? Perhaps you don’t know, or maybe you hop on social media without thinking. Around the world, every 40 seconds, someone dies by suicide; that’s at least 800,000 people a year. In the United States, suicide ranks among the top nine leading causes of death among young children and the elderly as of 2021. The statistical data becomes more visually striking when examining suicide rates regarding gender and race. The elevated suicide rates among Latino individuals in the United States profoundly impact the Rio Grande Valley, particularly concerning the reported rise in suicides among men in the region.

Alarming Increase in Latino Men’s Suicide

Compared to women, men are four times more likely to commit suicide. For approximately 24,000 men yearly, suicide is their last resort. During the year 2020, over 4,500 Latinos lost their lives to suicide in the United States, and on an annual basis, approximately 243,000 attempted to take their own lives.

From 2019 to 2020, there was an approximate six percent rise in suicides among Latino men. In 2019, suicide ranked as the second primary cause of death among Latinos aged 15 to 34. In the Rio Grande Valley, where the majority of the population is Latino, reports indicate that from 2018 to 2020, men exhibited a higher likelihood of committing suicide compared to women and the overall population. In 2017, Valley Baptist reported that of the 1.2 million Rio Grande Valley residents, 1 in 4 have some type of mental health need.

Graph of suicide deaths in the Rio Grande Valley based on gender.
Graph indicates suicide rates in the RGV based on gender. Photo courtesy of RGV Health Connect, March 2022.

According to a 2018 report, over 50% of the Latino population have a lower likelihood of seeking mental health services compared to their White counterparts. Latinos under the poverty level are also less likely to seek mental health help. While financial constraints can hinder Latinos from seeking help, mental health also carries a negative stigma within the culture. Latinos are collectivist individuals, meaning that the decisions and actions that one person makes represent the entire family. Therefore, when someone in the family seeks out help or therapy, they are viewed as “locos” (crazy) and “weak.” Seeking help is like breaking a social norm in the Latino culture. 


I remember watching E! News and hearing of all these artists with mental health issues, and I never really understood the meaning of mental health. My parents explained that mental health “es para los gringos” (it’s for the White people) because they were viewed as crazy. Unfortunately, there is a lack of understanding and knowledge of mental health among Latinos. Peralez, a mother from the RGV who lost her son to suicide, stated, “If I knew what I know now about depression, I know I could have saved my son.”

Illustration of a young Latino man holding his face in his hands. The outside world peeking into the dark room.
Illustration by Deborah Cantu.

Machismo and COVID-19

Latino men often face challenges in talking about their mental health due to the influence of machismo cultural norms. Machismo, also referred to as toxic masculinity, is a societal norm that sets expectations for how men should behave. Examples of the expectations that many men feel compelled to follow include hyper-independence, assuming the role of the head of the household, aggression, asserting dominance, maintaining emotional control, and seeking power. As a result, Latino men are raised with the expectation of suppressing emotions, discouraging many from seeking emotional support and help. Consequently, many remain undiagnosed for mental health issues, leading to a heightened risk of suicide. 

During COVID-19, Latinos were one of the populations most impacted by unemployment. Many men found themselves unemployed, experiencing stress, anxiety, and depression due to their perceived failure to fulfill their role as providers. As a result, Latino men’s suicide rates have increased by nearly six percent. The prevention of suicide could be attainable by dismantling the influence of machismo.

Doctor Camacho from Edinburg’s Children’s Hospital stated, “We avoid to talk about that, and we should be talking about it…suicide can be prevented.” Dr. Agapito from DHR Health states that it is essential for “family members and close friends of an individual to be very aware” of suicidal behavior and signs “because only they know what the baseline behavior is” for that person. “Do not hesitate to get them the help they need. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Illustration of a silhouette of a Latino man sitting on his bed in a dark green room. The outside world is reflected inside his silhouette, including a broken tree.
Illustration by Deborah Cantu.

Local & National Resources

If you or a loved one are in need of help, the following resources can be used to reach out to someone if you are in an emotional crisis or contemplating suicide. 


Local Resources

Tropical Texas Behavioral Health Crisis Line: 1-877-289-7199

Valley Baptist: 956-564-3674 or 956-389-4940


DHR Health: 956-362-4357


Vaquero Crisis Line (for enrolled UTRGV Students): 956-665-5555

National Resources

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or  988

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Crisis Text Line: Text TALK to 741741


National Hopeline Network: 1-800-784-2433

Self-harm Hotline: 1-800-366-8288


Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 and SMS (Text 838255 to connect with a VA responder).



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