Child & Adolescent Development: Overview

Review of "One in Thirteen"

By Jessica Porter
Robins Lane Press, 2001
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D on Jul 13th 2004
One in Thirteen

One in Thirteen is based on articles on teen suicide by Jessica Porter that appeared in Education Week in April 2000.  It is a slim book with a total of 110 pages and three main parts.  It contains many statistics about the growing rates at which American teens kill themselves and the factors that lead them to such desperation.  It also discusses some of the ways that they perform their self-destruction.  Not surprisingly, guns are the most popular method: the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that in the 1990s, 67% of males who committed suicide used a firearm.  The book also describes many teens who have killed themselves, and the events that led up to their deaths.  In each sketch, the reader gets some sense of the personalities behind the actions.  The third part is devoted to approaches of suicide prevention that are used around the country, with interviews with the individuals running those programs. 

The message behind Porter's book is strong and simple: as our society becomes more fragmented and young people experience more stress and isolation, they are more likely to succumb to the pressures they experience.  Since they are also particularly impulsive, they may act on their self-destructive feelings with no delay.  When they do give warning signs, teachers, school nurses and even parents often ignore them, dismissing them as the usual emotional storms of adolescence.  When the young people feel the urge to kill themselves, the means to do so are all too often easily available, with loaded guns lying around houses or easily available through friends or drug-sellers.  While African Americans have lower rates of suicides than white youths, their suicide rates have been steadily increasing.  Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual youth are at especially high risk for suicide. And of course, children from troubled homes are also more likely to kill themselves.  

Many have commented that teen suicide is reaching epidemic proportions in the USA.  The CDC estimates that teen suicide rates more than tripled between 1960 and 1990, and in 1997, one in thirteen high school students attempted suicide.  Half of all high school students have seriously considered suicide by the time they graduate.  One in Thirteen highlights these problems with its personal and moving stories, and points the way to some solutions.  Parents, teachers and clinicians may well find it informative. 

 

© 2004 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

 

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.

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