Not long ago I attended a talk given by a local mental health information group on how to identify the onset of mental illness in transitional age youth. The talk was interesting, but I was a bit upset by the speaker’s statement that because, statistically, girls and young women talk more about wanting to kill themselves than do boys, one needn’t be too concerned about their statements–suicide is probably not imminent. But if you have a boy, and they have a suicide plan, you should take that very very seriously, and act immediately.
Every time this observation was reiterated I reacted almost physically. I think this is the difficulty with quantitative assessments. Why would we want to gamble with respect to the life of a young woman? Cost-efficiency? Suppose the young woman in question happens to be the statistical anomaly? Those of us trained in psychoanalysis, I think, are more likely to focus on the individual–not without reference to cultural, social, environmental factors, but with reference to how those factors converge idiosyncratically in the life of a particular human being, and with the ethical understanding that all life is precious.
I’m wondering how people who are both psychoanalysts and psychiatrists would respond to this issue.