LatinaLista — It’s been two days since Gilberta Estrada-Vega committed suicide and decided to take 3 of her 4 young daughters with her.
As always happens when news spreads of a mother committing suicide and taking her kids with her, newspaper columnists and talk show radio hosts take turns villifying the woman.
Yet, Gilberta’s actions underscored a problem that is HUGE, but not discussed enough within the immigrant community, and mainstream society needs to pay attention before more tragedies like Gilberta’s find their way regularly into the headlines.
According to news reports, Gilberta was legal for all practical purposes with a pending visa, by virtue of her being a domestic violence victim. She also was a single mother of four young girls, all under the age of 5, living in a broken down trailer, who woke her kids up at 4 a.m. every morning so she could go earn minimum wage at Wendy’s.
She didn’t have steady child support, nor Medicaid benefits, often times went without electricity and — she was only 25 years old.
From all accounts, Gilberta was a strong woman but she was slipping into a depression.
Though her sister lived across the street, many Latinas are either too proud or don’t want to add to other family members’ own problems by confessing they are drowning in debt and despair.
So, too many Latinas suffer silently.
It is especially true of Latinas in the undocumented/immigrant community.
It’s been reported that Latinas suffer disproportionately from depression.
Hispanic women have the highest lifetime prevalence of depression (24%) of all women. Nearly twice as many Hispanic women reported being depressed (11%) as African American women (6%) and Caucasian women (5%). A 1993 survey found that Hispanic women were more likely to suffer from severe depression (53%) than Caucasian women (37%).
With that kind of predisposition towards depression, Gilberta’s life was literally a ticking bomb that signaled not if she would commit the act she did, but when.
It’s very easy to villify her, yet, as a society we should all know, just from common sense, that there is only so much pressure anyone can stand before they break.
For all these undocumented women who are trying to hold their families together amid immigration raids, police profiling and newly passed town ordinances meant to drive them out of their homes, it’s a wonder not more Gilbertas have created headlines.
A friend of mine who runs several counseling clinics in the Dallas, Texas area and treats many immigrant women confirms that because these women don’t know the language, or have transportation and must rely on other people, like their children or husbands, for basic communication with the outside world, it’s not unusual for them to fall into deep depressions.
Gilberta was lucky in that she was able to interact with the world beyond the trailer park but somewhere something went wrong.
Gilberta committed an act so atrocious that it can be considered both evil and an act of love. That she would rather take her children with her than leave them behind to suffer a life she was leading can be viewed to be just as brave as cowardly.
Obviously, her love was so intense that she couldn’t bear to leave her daughters behind — except for one who will grow up wondering how much her mother suffered and how come no one saw it.