Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds. From Greenhaven's Issues That Concern You series, Teen Suicide offers thirteen chapters from newspapers, magazines and congressional testimony on the prevalence and prevention of this tragedy. Teen Suicide links young people taking their own lives to individuals' confusion about sexual identity, to participation in media-fueled spirals or "suicide clusters" and to technologically-enabled harassment by peers but does not demonize modernity: "it is not video games, it is not the media, it is not television — it is part of the human condition" (p. 35).
Three chapters are devoted to demographic groups demonstrated to have unusually high incidence of suicide — gay teens, Native teens and young , unmarried soldiers. Gay teens were more than twice as likely to commit suicide, Native Alaskan teens commit suicide at a rate five times greater than non-Native Alaskan teens and young enlisted people, with easy access to lethal weapons, often face multiple redeployments and survivor guilt.
Two articles explore the relationship between individuals on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and suicide, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's "black box" warning about links between the pharmaceuticals and suicide risks. In 2003, British health authorities banned prescriptions of SSRIs except Prozac for those under 18. Another chapter theorizes about the effect of the media on suicide, suggesting that, in a celebrity-obsessed age, the sensational press and television coverage suicides influence the behavior of attention-seekers. Nonetheless, rashes of suicides are not a new phenomenon. Freud studied youth suicide clusters -- young people from a small geographic area, of similar ages and backgrounds, using a similar method — in the 1920s.
Cyberbullying is demonized in three articles and the book offers a taxonomy of technologically-enabled peer cruelty as well as describing the criminalization of online conduct, using the example of Lori Drew. Drew was found legally culpable in a 13 year-old Missouri girl's suicide after impersonating the girl's virtual boyfriend on MySpace. Other than Drew and parents pulling their students from school depression screening programs, parents appear very little in the book. While family instability and parental substance abuse are mentioned as contributing factors, the interaction of complex social relationships is presented as often compounding chemical depression or mood disorders.
One essay stresses the role of teachers as an early warning system for youth at risk of suicide and the bibliotherapeutic role of school and classroom libraries containing realistic fiction other for students to contextualize their ideations. There is a nice list of recent adolescent novels and nonfiction addressing suicidal thoughts, attempts and aftermath. Other suicide prevention efforts described include a programmatic, curricular approach to teaching students about the warning signs of suicidal tendencies and strategies for schools and teachers to use in monitoring teens. Suicide crisis hotlines are presented as a way of delivering just-in-time health services to those who often lack proper treatment for depression or mental illness rather than as a function of social services.
The book does not formally indict the second amendment, but the statistics contained within clearly demonstrate the link between possession of firearms and suicide; 55 percent of the 30,000 people killed by gunshot in 2005 were suicides. Suicidal murders tend to be more violent and suicides make up more than 60 percent of violent deaths worldwide.
A series of appendices presents amble statistical information about prevalence of suicidal thoughts as well as tracing gender and other demographic trends in suicide deaths. The book ends with straightforward advice for students with knowledge of a friend's suicidal impulses. The indexed volume provides a comprehensive bibliography and organizational directory, including online resources. Recommended for school and public libraries' social issues collections.