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
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.
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.