by DeQuincy A. Lezine and David Brent
Oxford University Press, 2007
Review by Leo Uzych, J.D., M.P.H. on Jul 28th 2009
Eight Stories Up is a member of the Adolescent Mental Health Initiative family of books. As explained in the book's "Foreword", the Initiative was created by the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands to share information, with mental health professionals, parents, and adolescents, about advances in the prevention and treatment of adolescent mental health disorders. The book's author, Dr. DeQuincy A. Lezine, is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, at the University of Rochester Center for the Study and Prevention of Suicide. In a "Preface" to the book, Lezine explains that it is intended to be a helpful beacon for those (particularly teenagers and young adults) lost in the fog of suicidal darkness, and a helpful resource regarding suicide related issues.
And indeed, the contents of the book rivet readers' attention instructively on a plethora of vital concerns associated with suicide. The book's substantive body is composed in substantial part of Lezine's plain English styled, anecdotal descriptions of enduring personally the punishing emotional pain inflicted by suicidal thinking. But notably, the veins coursing through the body of the book flow palpably with realistic hopefulness. The literature pertaining to suicide has been enriched considerably by Lezine's hope inspiring, if emotionally churning, contribution.
The autobiographic information put to paper by Lezine opens a window illumining some of his suicidal thoughts, and eventual "crisis". Data drawn from a journal entry; quotes culled from some emails; and data emanating from a "Hospital Log" contribute to the book's substance. The bluntly honest descriptions of Lezine's emotionally painful struggle to exorcise his demons of suicide are fascinating, dreary, and sobering. For readers seeking to expel their own demons of suicide, Lezine's anecdotally recollected experience may be of immensely absorbing interest.
But critical minded readers may interject cautiously that a particular person's personal struggle with suicide is a unique experience; and an anecdotal recollecting of such a struggle may have limited pertinence and helpfulness to others in the throes of suicidal thinking. Academically inclined readers may add that information of an anecdotal nature is academically disempowered.
Over the course of the book, Lezine displays a distinct tendency to drift back and forth between anecdotal recounting of suicidal urges which have tormented him personally, and more generalized, technical directed discourse relating to suicide. In the latter vein, Lezine refers often to suicide centric research. But importantly, the research referred to is not referenced. For the reader in search of a scientific evidence based examination of suicide, the absence of research references disempowers further the book's academic strength.
The critical reader may opine additionally that Lezine's generalized scientific discourse is presented at a relatively rudimentary level; and that the rather diluted dose of science injected into the book's corpus weakens its didactic potency.
But substantively, the swath (of anecdotal data, mixed with technical discussion) cut by the scythe of Lezine's writing instrument will likely both edify, and enthrall, the knowledge curious reader.
In the book's first chapter, Lezine anecdotally fleshes out some of the details of his personal suicidal crisis. Further blended into the mix of the chapter's substantive contents is technical material, extending to discourse informing the reader about possible linkages between suicidal behavior and particular minority groups.
In Chapter Two, Lezine selectively recollects bits and pieces of his "background", which may be helpfully pertinent to solving the puzzle of his suicidal crisis, and eventual recovery. Commingled with these anecdotal recollections is scientific examination of the knotty relationship entwining suicide and diverse strands, encompassing: multifarious personality traits; "social environment"; and genetics and biology.
Some of Lezine's darkening thoughts and painful emotions, as he descended into the debilitating depths of a suicidal state, are described in Chapter Three. As is his wont, Lezine endeavors to craft his tapestry, of suicide, by interweaving seamlessly anecdotal threads with threads of science. Of particular interest, in this chapter, is suicide as it may be joined scientifically to: emotional dysregulation; and also, to sundry psychiatric disorders.
Perspicacious discourse focusing readers' attention sharply on treatment options for suicidal urges, principally enveloping psychotherapy and medications, forms the substantive heart of Chapter Four.
"Recovery", from a suicidal crisis, is the principal subject examined in Chapter Five. In enthralling fashion, Lezine informs the reader about his personal efforts to traverse the bumpy road to recovery from his suicidal crisis. Along the way, Lezine presents some ideas and some coping strategies of a germane nature.
Included in concluding Chapter Six are some details regarding Lezine's post suicidal crisis years.
Attached to the book's far end is a structural appendage (in the form of "Frequently Asked Questions"), in which Lezine raises a series of suicide connected questions; and then pithily provides practical oriented answers.
Another appendage has the form of a "Glossary", and is composed of brief definitions for a multitude of technical terms with linkages to the mental health field.
Yet another structural part (entitled "Resources") tersely identifies, and also gives contact information for, numerous entities situated in the mental health realm. Citations for some mental health linked books are also given.
Not least, a "Bibliography", alphabetized by author name, provides citations for an abundance of mental health associated research materials.
In style, as in substance, this book is removed considerably from the customary formalities of academic writing. And critics may add: neither is it suitably a surrogate for the professional counsel of qualified experts, for those suffering possibly from emotional or psychologic disturbance.
The book, however, is a fountain dually flowing copiously with anecdotal data and technical information about suicide. Laypersons thirsting for better understanding of suicide may be quite satisfied by the book's intellectually nourishing contents. And its contents may, as well, be very healthful to those thirsting professionally for better understanding of suicide, including: psychiatrists, child psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, behavioral therapists, psychiatric nurses, neurologists, suicide prevention experts, social workers, pediatricians, primary care physicians, school nurses, drug counselors, paramedics, and mental health advocates.
© 2009 Leo Uzych
Leo Uzych (based in Wallingford, PA) earned a law degree, from Temple University; and a master of public health degree, from Columbia University. His area of special professional interest is healthcare.