Online Program

Addressing Stigma of Suicide within Laotian Community: A Community-Based Approach

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Debbie Huang, Columbia University, New York, NY
Jeffrey Wong, BA, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY
Monica Martinez, BA, Non-Profit Organization, Mental Health Association of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Luba Botcheva, PhD, Mental Health Association of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Daniel Esparza, Mental Health Association of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Eduardo Vega, MA, Center for Dignity, Recovery and Empowerment, San Francisco, CA
Background: The 2001 Surgeon’s General supplement report highlighted the mental health needs of Southeast Asian populations. However, cultural attitudes toward mental health issues, such suicide, remain a barrier towards effective delivery of resources and treatment. This study offers an opportunity to understand how stigma of suicide is operationalized within Laotian community and community-based strategies that will decrease stigma and enhance dissemination of aid to those at risk of suicide.

Methods: Three focus groups were conducted with 5-10 community elders or mental health staff. Additionally, 18 individual recruited through a community center were interviewed. Individuals were assessed using a semi-structured interview asking about stigma towards suicide, or cultural acceptability towards suicide, from the perspective of the respondent’s ethnic group. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and coded using a “grounded theory” open coding framework.

Results: Suicide is highly stigmatized within the Laotian community. Individuals who attempt suicide may suffer retribution under Buddhist teachings. Those who die from suicide may not go through formal burial ceremonies. While stressors such as money, shame, and family problems are important risk factors, intergenerational conflict prevents particularly the youth from coping with these stressors. Outward expression of problems is not culturally encouraged and language barriers exacerbate challenges in seeking resources outside of the community.

Conclusion: Despite the high level of stigma, there is strong community willingness to address these challenges. Future intervention could consider involvement of elders and monks to deliver resources through community centers or temples. These locations may be an accessible and culturally appropriate means to providing anti-stigma intervention and other important resources to the Laotian community. Utilization of technology-based resources could better target the youth. Contextualization of the problem of suicide through community participation can help develop more effective and culturally-approach interventions to address the stigma towards suicide.

Learning Areas:

Diversity and culture
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe how stigma of suicide is conceptualized through the views of Laotian American community members.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a graduate student studying epidemiology with a concentration of social determinants of health. Among my scientific interests has been the importance of culture related to stigma of mental health, particularly suicide.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.