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Teenage Suicide

Young Americans are killing themselvesat an unprecedented rate: teenage suicide is up fivefold in the last 20 years. The national response to this calamity has been curiously muted. There is a strange reluctance to link this epidemic with the massive changes in family life of the past two decades. There is, for example, a suggestive parallel between rising numbers of working mothers and skyrocketing teenage suicide, but most commentators would rather slit their wrists—or have their kids slit theirs—rather than hint at such a linkage. Certainly, no one would be so rash as to suggest that in order to "turn the clock back" on the teenage-suicide rate it might be necessary to turn the clock back on several liberating trends of recent decades.

Even when media and educational leaders claim to be attending to the problem, they are more often evading it. For instance, last fall CBS broadcast the docudrama Silence of the Heart, portraying a teenage boy who commits suicide and his family's anguished response to his death. A CBS executive proclaimed that their dramatization of teen suicide would "help people put it in perspective," while the leading actress in the production, Mariette Hartley, hoped that the production would "save lives,"

It was appropriate, however, that CBS distributed study and discussion guides...

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