Vol. 1 Issue 3, Autumn, 1997
Adolescent Suicide and Poetry by Barbara Jameson, Ph.D.
Most persons working with adolescents have haunting memories of a young person who has taken his or her life. We ask, "Were there signs we didnít see? Is there something we should have done?"
Two Israeli scholars, one in social work and the other in literature, collaborated in research to develop a technique to identify potentially suicidal adolescents by analyzing their poetry. Literature teachers in high schools are shown how to carry out poetry writing activity. Key words which are used by suicidal versus non-suicidal adolescents can be identified by the teacher, who then alerts school counselors if one of his/her studentsí poems fits the suicidal model.
For example, one student in the Israeli study handed in a group of poems
that showed a high usage of the suicidal words. The officials had not known
of the students stress. The poems follow...
...This young person, after total denial by the family that any problem existed, was finally given therapy and a potential disaster was prevented.
The cry for help from this fifteen-year-old boy was not heard. The poem was written two years before he committed suicide:
|To Santa Claus and Little Sisters
Once... he wrote a poem
Young Sarah was more fortunate. Her cry for help was heeded and she managed to overcome her problem...
She also expressed her recovery through poetry...
The first line of the group poem that follows was written by the teacher...
The material presented here can be found in a book of the same title written by Sharlin and Shenhar. The English version is edited by Dr. Jameson. The book is published by American Foster Care Resources, Inc., King George, VA USA
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