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Lewis, K.C. (2019). Teenage Suicide Notes: An Ethnography of Self-Harm, by Terry Williams, New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2017, 288 pp., $30.00. Psychoanal. Psychol., 36(1):108-111.

(2019). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 36(1):108-111

Teenage Suicide Notes: An Ethnography of Self-Harm, by Terry Williams, New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2017, 288 pp., $30.00

Review by:
Katie C. Lewis, Ph.D.

Rates of completed suicide have been on the rise in the United States. Teens and young adults have been particularly affected, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting that suicide rates for teenage girls are at a 40-year high (CDC, 2017). Psychoanalytic accounts of suicide in adolescents, primarily presented in the form of case studies, have in the past focused on several themes, including intergenerational trauma and adverse parent-child dynamics (Sabbath, 1969), developmental difficulty in transitioning from dependency to independence (Anderson, 2008), and efforts at mastery over a conflictual relationship with the body (Friedman, Glasser, Laufer, Laufer, & Wohl, 1972). Currently, manualized forms of psychodynamic and attachment-based family treatments are listed among the most effective treatments available for reducing self-injurious thoughts and behaviors in adolescents (Glenn, Franklin, & Nock, 2015). The teenage years are a complicated time of role transitions and identity changes, and adolescents who enter this period with a history of trauma or poor interpersonal resources may find themselves at a disadvantage for negotiating various challenges, raising the risk for engagement in self-injurious thoughts and behaviors. While fictional portrayals of troubled youth (most notably, Netflix's controversial13 Reasons Why series) have helped draw attention to the issue of suicide in young adults, the voices of those who have actually experienced suicidal thoughts during this developmental period have been largely absent; the timing, therefore, of Terry Williams's Teenage Suicide Notes: An Ethnography of Self-Harm fits perfectly into current national dialogues and has the potential to fill an important phenomenological gap.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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