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Posted March 1, 2005

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A Suicidal Teen, a Desperate Mother,
and a Chronicle of Recovery

By Gail Griffith
New York: Harper-Collins publishers: 2005
Available May 2005

Reviewed by Lon Woodbury

Will’s Choice is one of the stories behind the headlines, and the drama behind those sterile statistics of attempted teen suicides. This is a memoir of a mother who faced one of the things parents fear the most in their teenage child – an attempted suicide stemming from chronic depression.

Throughout the book, the author shares her frustration with the search for adequate options to help her son, many of which proved inadequate. She explains the frustration of caring for her depressed son, and finding him unconscious one morning from an overdose of prescription medications. She expresses the confusing and conflicting professional suggestions, and coping with hospitalization.

With sheer luck, she stumbles across Susan Dranitzke, an educational consultant who steers her in the direction of several good therapeutic boarding schools and treatment centers. The final choice is Montana Academy, a well-regarded therapeutic/ emotional growth boarding school near Kalispell, MT. In the Montana wilderness, her son learns to handle his demons and rebuild his life, along with “rethreading a loom of tangled relationships between children and parents—and between children and the wider world.”

This book can be valuable for any parent of a teen. Through one mother’s experience, it provides a roadmap of what a family can go through when the bottom drops out of their child’s life. She experiences the despair of watching her son self-destruct, the frustration of overly busy professionals providing rote solutions that are not adequate. She shares the hope that gradually builds when a proper intervention is found through a residential placement run by people who are “honest, decent and caring, and put their best efforts” into working with her son.

She explains all the false starts that do not work. She analyzes the routine suggestions by professionals that turn out to be un-suitable. Furthermore, she describes the fears that the solution she finds will not accept her and the chilling fears at those times when her son challenges the treatment and structure so necessary for his future well-being. In addition, she shares the simple but important things, like finally being able to sleep deeply once she makes the decision and her son is finally in a safe place with caring people.

At root, this is a book of hope. Hope that no matter how bleak the situation appears, there are solutions in the form of good quality residential programs for self-destructive young people, when parents research to find them. Contained in this book is a message to desperate parents of self-destructive children that there is no problem without a solution.

About the Author:
Gail Griffith is a graduate of Georgetown University; she currently works on the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation’s International Campaign to ban landmines. Gail is a promoter, fundraiser and organizer actively involved with international humanitarian and art causes. She lives in Washington D.C.

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Copyright © 2005, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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