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"Picturing myself dying in a way I choose myself seems so comforting, healing and heroic. I'd look at my wrists, watch the blood seeping, and be a spectator in my last act of self-determination. By having lost all my self-respect it seems like the last pride I own, determining the time I die."-Kyra V., seventeen Reading the confessions of a teenager contemplating suicide ma "Picturing myself dying in a way I choose myself seems so comforting, healing and heroic. I'd look at my wrists, watch the blood seeping, and be a spectator in my last act of self-determination. By having lost all my self-respect it seems like the last pride I own, determining the time I die."-Kyra V., seventeen Reading the confessions of a teenager contemplating suicide may be uncomfortable, but we must do so to understand why self-harm has become an epidemic, especially in the United States. What drives teenagers to self-harm? What makes death so attractive, so liberating, and so inevitable for so many? In Teenage Suicide Notes, the sociologist Williams evaluates young people in rural and urban contexts and across race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. His approach, which combines sensitive portrayals with objective sociological analysis, adds a clarifying dimension to the fickle and often frustrating behavior of adolescents. Williams reads between the lines of his subjects' seemingly straightforward reflections on alienation, agency, euphoria, and loss, and investigates how this cocktail of emotions can create an overwhelming and impossible desperation. Rather than treat these notes as exceptional examples of self-expression, Williams situates them at the center of teenage life, linking them to incidents of abuse, violence, depression, anxiety, religion, peer pressure, sexual identity, and family dynamics. He captures the currents that turn self-destruction into an act of self-determination, which also allows him to propose more effective solutions to resolving the suicide crisis.


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"Picturing myself dying in a way I choose myself seems so comforting, healing and heroic. I'd look at my wrists, watch the blood seeping, and be a spectator in my last act of self-determination. By having lost all my self-respect it seems like the last pride I own, determining the time I die."-Kyra V., seventeen Reading the confessions of a teenager contemplating suicide ma "Picturing myself dying in a way I choose myself seems so comforting, healing and heroic. I'd look at my wrists, watch the blood seeping, and be a spectator in my last act of self-determination. By having lost all my self-respect it seems like the last pride I own, determining the time I die."-Kyra V., seventeen Reading the confessions of a teenager contemplating suicide may be uncomfortable, but we must do so to understand why self-harm has become an epidemic, especially in the United States. What drives teenagers to self-harm? What makes death so attractive, so liberating, and so inevitable for so many? In Teenage Suicide Notes, the sociologist Williams evaluates young people in rural and urban contexts and across race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. His approach, which combines sensitive portrayals with objective sociological analysis, adds a clarifying dimension to the fickle and often frustrating behavior of adolescents. Williams reads between the lines of his subjects' seemingly straightforward reflections on alienation, agency, euphoria, and loss, and investigates how this cocktail of emotions can create an overwhelming and impossible desperation. Rather than treat these notes as exceptional examples of self-expression, Williams situates them at the center of teenage life, linking them to incidents of abuse, violence, depression, anxiety, religion, peer pressure, sexual identity, and family dynamics. He captures the currents that turn self-destruction into an act of self-determination, which also allows him to propose more effective solutions to resolving the suicide crisis.

30 review for Teenage Suicide Notes: An Ethnography of Self-Harm

  1. 5 out of 5

    Louise Wilson

    Terry Williams has interviewed teenagers who have attempted suicide and family relatives of 2 teenagers whose attempts were successful. Reading this novel was really hard going. Reading the teenagers suicide notes they gather information. This is a hard book to read because of its co tents. Yes, I knew this before I started this book, but being a parent I was interested to find out if there were signs to alert you as they are not always obvious. I would like to thank NetGalley. Columbia University Terry Williams has interviewed teenagers who have attempted suicide and family relatives of 2 teenagers whose attempts were successful. Reading this novel was really hard going. Reading the teenagers suicide notes they gather information. This is a hard book to read because of its co tents. Yes, I knew this before I started this book, but being a parent I was interested to find out if there were signs to alert you as they are not always obvious. I would like to thank NetGalley. Columbia University Press and the author Terry Williams for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    Terry Williams spend some time talking to teenagers who have thought about and/or attempted suicide and who, in the process, wrote suicide notes. Williams evaluates these teens and tries to discover what makes these teens suicidal. He talks to them about pretty much all aspects of life and tries to find something that connects them all. I thought that this was such a great and interesting idea that I really wanted to read it and I requested it from Netgalley. Turns out I didn’t really like it as Terry Williams spend some time talking to teenagers who have thought about and/or attempted suicide and who, in the process, wrote suicide notes. Williams evaluates these teens and tries to discover what makes these teens suicidal. He talks to them about pretty much all aspects of life and tries to find something that connects them all. I thought that this was such a great and interesting idea that I really wanted to read it and I requested it from Netgalley. Turns out I didn’t really like it as much as I thought I would. I actually didn’t like it at all. The one thing I did find very interesting, and the one thing that made me read most of this book, was the stories of the teenagers. They all told their stories in such an interesting and clear way that I tended to skip over the bits the author added. I found this book really difficult to get through and it started with the introduction. It was so so long that I thought the whole book would be an introduction. There was also a lot of repetition and it would’ve probably been a lot better if there was just a short explanation of what the author did for this book and what he hopes to achieve with it. Another thing I didn’t particularly like was the comments of the author in most of the stories. I felt like he was just stating the obvious or repeating what the teenager in question had just pointed out. Also blaming everything on the Goth culture was just a big no for me. Lastly, what bothered me, was that all of these stories were actually dated. Most of these cases took place in the 90s and it showed. This made it harder to relate to these teenagers, though their pain and struggles were described very well. Honestly, I didn’t even bother with the afterword and appendixes. All in all, it took me forever to read (most of) this book and I am kind of disappointed. I received this book for free through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

  3. 5 out of 5

    Samantha Luce

    3.5 stars rounded up to 4. You know going in that this will be a tough read. Teenage suicide is on the rise. Hopefully this book can help teach a parent or friend what to look and could even give a teen some hope that things will get better. There are 10 case studies here. 8 are notes and interviews with teens and their families who attempted suicide. The other 2 stories are notes and interviews with the families of 2 teens who successfully committed suicide. It's a sad read, but there is hope. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4. You know going in that this will be a tough read. Teenage suicide is on the rise. Hopefully this book can help teach a parent or friend what to look and could even give a teen some hope that things will get better. There are 10 case studies here. 8 are notes and interviews with teens and their families who attempted suicide. The other 2 stories are notes and interviews with the families of 2 teens who successfully committed suicide. It's a sad read, but there is hope. NetGalley ARC received for an unbiased review

  4. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Very good for a sociology class to speak about how suicidal thoughts can look different depending on the person, however, I thought the book would go more in depth into the psychological aspect of suited: prevention, risk factors, what to do with those thoughts

  5. 4 out of 5

    Khepre

    This was a strong piece on teenagers who feel as though they have nowhere else to turn to. Therefore, it made for an impactful and interesting read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    Interesting look at the common themes in suicide.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Aisling

    This was interesting, but not as interesting as I was anticipating. Because the author focuses on a subset of teenagers who ran in similar circles in the 1990s and early 2000s, there is an element of repetition in the stories and a sense that there is a wider, unacknowledged, experience of youth suicide. I also felt that use of the term 'committed suicide' throughout the book is a somewhat outdated construct as the use of 'committed' intimates suicide as a sin, born of religious influence on soc This was interesting, but not as interesting as I was anticipating. Because the author focuses on a subset of teenagers who ran in similar circles in the 1990s and early 2000s, there is an element of repetition in the stories and a sense that there is a wider, unacknowledged, experience of youth suicide. I also felt that use of the term 'committed suicide' throughout the book is a somewhat outdated construct as the use of 'committed' intimates suicide as a sin, born of religious influence on social policy in many countries. The lack of conversation about the impact of the internet, social media and interactivity online doesn't serve this book well either. I questioned throughout why the case studies are so old and why the book was not significantly updated before publication- this is the reason for the 2.5/3 star review. Many others have expressed the same sentiment in these reviews. On the whole, these young people are erudite and expressive. Their experiences are made clear through their own writing and perhaps the level of commentary to understand this writing was not necessary- they were up front, direct, open enough to comprehend easily without aid. The book is interesting and a quick read, but is badly let down by its own dated subjects, given how much the world has changed since the 1990s.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    I feel really bad about it but I am going to have to give up on one of the books i have been reading to review on NetGalley. I thought I could deal with the subject matter but I can't, its a little too personal for me. I feel really bad about it but I am going to have to give up on one of the books i have been reading to review on NetGalley. I thought I could deal with the subject matter but I can't, its a little too personal for me.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dani St-Onge (Literary Lion)

    http://literary-lion.tumblr.com/ Disclaimer: A free copy of this book was received through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. A collection of writings and confessions by suicidal teenagers. Williams evaluates these teens and tries to discover what might lead them to suicidal thoughts and self-harm. Williams examines their sexualities, family life, ethnicities, music tastes, and social situations to try and come to a conclusion that connects them all. This book is brand new and it already f http://literary-lion.tumblr.com/ Disclaimer: A free copy of this book was received through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. A collection of writings and confessions by suicidal teenagers. Williams evaluates these teens and tries to discover what might lead them to suicidal thoughts and self-harm. Williams examines their sexualities, family life, ethnicities, music tastes, and social situations to try and come to a conclusion that connects them all. This book is brand new and it already feels dated. Most of the cases Williams looks at took place in the 90s and it is painfully obvious. This is no longer the culture we live in. Obviously teenagers still commit suicide and share some of the same feelings but Williams is looking at suicide through the lens of teen culture in the 90s, a culture that no longer exists. Ignoring the fact that the book feels old, Williams has written it in an odd way. His writing is unorganized, particularly towards the end of the book. Someone using this book academically would have trouble finding the information they’re looking for. As well it leads to Williams repeating himself far too often. The number of times “I’m a good listener” was written in different ways was ridiculous. His writing is also strangely poetic at times when he describes the appearance of the teens or their homes and it just seems out of place. This isn’t a fictional novel, it didn’t need that sort of flourish. Out of the cases studied only two led to actual suicides. This means most of Williams’s study is skewed towards teens who overcame whatever issues they had and did not actually kill themselves. This makes it a less useful study on suicide as a whole because only two cases involve actual successful suicides. It does make the book far less depressing than it could have been but the title is rather misleading. The best part of the book were the children’s writings, particularly the middle section where letters were scanned in. The book would have been far more powerful if it has more of the teenagers’ writings and less of Williams’s examinations of them. He falls into repetitive loops rehashing the same ideas about parenting and goth culture over and over again and it overshadows the poignant and personal writings from the teens. This book is interesting if only for the real teen writings, but it presents an entirely different (and outdated) world from what today’s teens face.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Ethnography is a really big interest of mine so when I spotted this book on teenage suicide notes I knew I would really enjoy reading it. And I wasn’t wrong. I was hooked on this book from start to finish. The juxtaposition of the teenager’s notes alongside their current feelings as well as William’s perspective was a great technique. It was so interesting to read family and friend’s thoughts as well as the teenager’s writings. Suicide can feel like a huge topic so to read about it on an individ Ethnography is a really big interest of mine so when I spotted this book on teenage suicide notes I knew I would really enjoy reading it. And I wasn’t wrong. I was hooked on this book from start to finish. The juxtaposition of the teenager’s notes alongside their current feelings as well as William’s perspective was a great technique. It was so interesting to read family and friend’s thoughts as well as the teenager’s writings. Suicide can feel like a huge topic so to read about it on an individual and more personal level made it feel more accessible, and easier to talk about. As a mental health professional, I found this book so useful for tackling the subject of suicide and it couldn’t have been written in a more poignant and powerful way.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Alyce Hunt

    I'm so confused as to why this hasn't been published until this point, or why it wasn't made more relevant before publication. Terry Williams interviewed a bunch of teenagers who left suicide notes (and the friends and family of two teenagers whose attempts were successful) in the 90's. Rather than continuing his study over the past 16 years, showing how suicide changes over times and how some trends and more prevalent than others, it's focusing solely on evaluating these rather dated reports. Ter I'm so confused as to why this hasn't been published until this point, or why it wasn't made more relevant before publication. Terry Williams interviewed a bunch of teenagers who left suicide notes (and the friends and family of two teenagers whose attempts were successful) in the 90's. Rather than continuing his study over the past 16 years, showing how suicide changes over times and how some trends and more prevalent than others, it's focusing solely on evaluating these rather dated reports. Terry seems to be persecuting the goth scene for their close links to suicide and self-harm and single-handedly tackling the two parent family unit, implying that the so-called 'nuclear family' is actually one of the most direct causes of depression and self-harm in young people. The afterword attempts to link the old research into modern trends, such as the rise of social media and technology, but with cases of suicide such as those of Amanda Todd and Leelah Alcorn not even given a passing mention, it feels as though something big is missing. If this had been published at the time, it would have been much more useful, but instead it seems that Terry interviewed these teenagers and just sat on their stories until he needed more material for a book, rather than attempting to educate parents as he claims.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lexi

    Disclaimer: I haven't finished this yet, not because it isn't a good book, it's just quite depressing to read, so I can only cope in small chunks. It's a mix of real extracts from the teenagers notebooks, with background facts and psychological analysis. The author's sections are quite a "dry" read, but any other tone of voice would be inappropriate for the subject matter. I would have liked more variety in the case studies - there is a lot of focus on the goth culture and (so far at least) there Disclaimer: I haven't finished this yet, not because it isn't a good book, it's just quite depressing to read, so I can only cope in small chunks. It's a mix of real extracts from the teenagers notebooks, with background facts and psychological analysis. The author's sections are quite a "dry" read, but any other tone of voice would be inappropriate for the subject matter. I would have liked more variety in the case studies - there is a lot of focus on the goth culture and (so far at least) there are no social media related case-studies which I would have thought might be more common today. Also, although he includes rural and urban examples, the troubled family backgrounds seem fairly similar - a broader social mix would have been interesting. That said, there are lessons to be learned as a parent just to be alert to the signs, whatever the context. We are all very alert to signs of drinking/ smoking/ drugs, but the broader awareness, e.g. to cutting, is helpful. I received a review copy of this book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    This book was one of the hardest I have read in a long time. I felt the pain from each person in this book. There stories cut me so deep I thought I would bleed out. I wish I could do something to help them. I can't say I know exactly what their going through, but I have a long history with suicide and depression like everyone in this book. Terry Williams did a fantastic job capturing the stories from each of these young people. I recommend this book more than I can say. This truly is a book tha This book was one of the hardest I have read in a long time. I felt the pain from each person in this book. There stories cut me so deep I thought I would bleed out. I wish I could do something to help them. I can't say I know exactly what their going through, but I have a long history with suicide and depression like everyone in this book. Terry Williams did a fantastic job capturing the stories from each of these young people. I recommend this book more than I can say. This truly is a book that will stick with me for a very long time.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty

    The reviewer below me has noted how dated this book feels. A lot of the case studies feel outdated, as does the writing style which Williams has employed. At no time did I doubt his sincerity or intelligence, but it did feel as though I was reading some kind of 'cult' non-fiction piece at times. I admire what has been attempted here, but for me, it wasn't executed well (poor choice of vocabulary; I do apologise), and I decided not to read the whole. The reviewer below me has noted how dated this book feels. A lot of the case studies feel outdated, as does the writing style which Williams has employed. At no time did I doubt his sincerity or intelligence, but it did feel as though I was reading some kind of 'cult' non-fiction piece at times. I admire what has been attempted here, but for me, it wasn't executed well (poor choice of vocabulary; I do apologise), and I decided not to read the whole.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bernard O'Leary

    There's the potential for this to be a great and important work but it doesn't quite have the depth that the source material demands. It certainly doesn't work as an ethnography and is really more of a series of case studies. Still, a tough and heartbreaking read. There's the potential for this to be a great and important work but it doesn't quite have the depth that the source material demands. It certainly doesn't work as an ethnography and is really more of a series of case studies. Still, a tough and heartbreaking read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Sekins

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jessalyn

  18. 4 out of 5

    J Aislynn d'Merricksson

    In Teenage Suicide Notes Williams elucidates a subject many prefer to ignore, to pretend it doesn't exist. But exist it does, and it's growing worse. And what is that subject? Teenage suicide. Williams makes an ethnographic study of several teens in New York who either committed suicide, or went through parasuicide rituals. Many of these teens were thankfully either able to work through the underlying issues or were well on the way to doing so. Two weren't so blessed. For them, the only way out w In Teenage Suicide Notes Williams elucidates a subject many prefer to ignore, to pretend it doesn't exist. But exist it does, and it's growing worse. And what is that subject? Teenage suicide. Williams makes an ethnographic study of several teens in New York who either committed suicide, or went through parasuicide rituals. Many of these teens were thankfully either able to work through the underlying issues or were well on the way to doing so. Two weren't so blessed. For them, the only way out was that final step. This book contains only a handful of cases, yet it encompasses the truth of a wide swath of our communities. This ethnographic study put paid to the notion that a two-parent household was ideal. Even two-parent homes can be full of dysfunction, with faulty beliefs and behaviours passing from generation to generation, at least until someone along the line becomes self-aware enough to break the cycle. The biggest issue was these kids being the odd one out in the family, and trying to conform to expectations. Like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. This book really struck a chord with me. I was the 'black sheep’ of my family, so different from everyone else. I had suicidal thoughts as a young adult and teen. I didn't fit in at school either, being an extreme introvert. I was more at home in books than with people. I wrote about suicide, like the kids within these pages, but never made a serious attempt. I'm forever grateful to my paternal grandmother, who always accepted me as is, even when my faith diverted from my family's. I became deeply spiritual, and philosophical, a far cry from the majority of my family. They still cannot understand me, but we’ve come to accord, and my relationships are much improved. I still have unhealthy inculcated beliefs, those multi-generational influences passed down from parent to child. This has left me with a deep distrust of males, among other things. I've spent decades working through these limiting beliefs. Perspective changes everything. I find it fascinating, the notion of suicide and suicide attempts as a rite of passage in America, in a culture that has no formal rites of passage. Williams notes that teens today seem to be finding their way back to the rites of passage to adulthood practised by older societies, where said rites involved undergoing risks in order to become adults. What our ancestors did in a controlled, purposeful way, with the support of the adult community, today's teens are doing themselves, albeit uncontrolled and unsupported. Perhaps society as a whole needs to heed the wisdom of our ancestors. This is a book I would recommend everyone read. This is such an important topic, and one many avoid. ***Many thanks to Netgalley and Columbia University Press for providing an egalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ashlie

  21. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    This book is so poignant, it will have you in tears at times wondering how we have let our nation's children down so much that they think this may be a way out. I really enjoyed this book as it gave me some insight. My daughter just turned 13 and it made me review and really sit and think as to how to approach her as she navigates one of the most confusing periods of her life. This book is so poignant, it will have you in tears at times wondering how we have let our nation's children down so much that they think this may be a way out. I really enjoyed this book as it gave me some insight. My daughter just turned 13 and it made me review and really sit and think as to how to approach her as she navigates one of the most confusing periods of her life.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Terry

  23. 5 out of 5

    Brook Donham

  24. 4 out of 5

    Monique (itsmoniiee)

  25. 4 out of 5

    Adam

  26. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Mokma

  27. 4 out of 5

    Daria

  28. 4 out of 5

    Julia

  29. 5 out of 5

    Marissa De

  30. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Di Leo

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