Youth in crisis
One in Thirteen: The Silent Epidemic of Teen Suicide
by Jessica Portner
Available from News Weekly Books for $27.95 plus p&h
The sad fact about Western society is that it has lost its sense of the sacred and a confidence in life itself, and there is no more compelling example of this loss than the ever-increasing rate of youth suicide. This alarming epidemic is discussed in One in Thirteen.
Suicide is the third largest cause of death among American teenagers and, according to Portner’s research, one child in every 13 will attempt it. Portner has spent a decade researching and investigating the subject and begins her study by asking the obvious question: why are a worrying proportion of American teenagers turning to suicide?
What makes One in Thirteen exceptional is the inclusion of recent events, such as the Columbine High School massacre, and stories of families whose children have taken their lives. These insights explore the background of the victims and shine a bright light on the culture which influenced their destructive choice.
Suicide does not discriminate by race, class, region or religion, but Porter indicates that there are parallels among the victims.
Factors increasing suicide’s likelihood include higher parental divorce rates, parental abuse, exposure to television, availability of hand guns and “the isolation and alienation from caring adults both at home and at the school”.
On the last point Portner adds that “most parents are now working more than in the past and, as a result, have far less time to spend with their children”.
And what of the often identified factor of religious belief as a deterrent to suicide? Portner fails to examine closely this important relationship, limiting her discussion to a simple statement: “Religious affiliation as a buffer against the harsh realities of the world has a solid grounding in research.”
Nonetheless, despite this shortcoming, One in Thirteen is an excellent introduction to the epidemic of teenage suicide, but it is also a wake-up call to policy-makers – to take affirmative action in support of the family, and a reminder to parents to spend more time with their children.