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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Howard M. Kravitz, DO, MPH (Rush University Medical Center)
Description: This book is a rather large handbook of current work on suicide. It was written to serve as both a basic reference resource and a hands-on practice guide.
Purpose: The text evolved from a two-day suicide conference in 1997 that brought together Harvard faculty and outside experts. Its purpose is to help clinicians assess and treat suicidal patients, an unequivocally laudable goal. An important feature of the book that demonstrates the editor's sincerity in achieving this purpose is the inclusion of an "implications for the clinician" section at the end of almost every chapter, which serves to summarize and highlight key points and ties together the clinical and evidence-based aspects of each presentation.
Audience: The broad audience includes practitioners who need to assess suicidal persons: psychiatrists, primary care physicians, school counselors, psychologists, psychotherapists, and other mental health professionals. The editor has assembled an all-star line-up of contributors who comprise a virtual who's who in suicidology, ranging from A to Z (actually only A to W: Arango to Weiss).
Features: This guide is divided into three parts: assessment, intervention, and special issues. The result is an interesting blend of experiential and empirical views on suicide, its assessment, and practical management guidelines. The writing style emphasizes simple language and lucidity, which make an easy read of this weighty subject. The editor indicates points of overlap and/or alternative views and cross-references the reader to the appropriate chapter(s). Controversies and speculations are underplayed; the main thrust is to provide usable information for practitioners. Tables and exhibits (another term for tables in some chapters) highlight important facts; figures are presented sparingly. Vignettes are used to highlight clinical points. Quite impressively, most chapters are quite up-to-date, with a large number of references from the 1990s, up to and including 1998. Non-glossy, acid-free, and chlorine-free paper adds to user-friendliness.
Assessment: This book represents an attempt to cover assessment and intervention comprehensively from both evidence-based and state-of-the-art clinical practice perspectives. Although largely successful, it more convincingly achieves the latter than the former; the presentations tend more toward anecdotal and experiential than data-driven and evidence-based. Removing the anecdotal and overly personalized chapters would have shortened the text, but perhaps made it less interesting. Furthermore, the contributors' expertise adds an aura of authoritativeness and credibility to the chapters. One caveat is that this is a book for practitioners, not for suicide researchers, unless they also see patients. It is competitively priced and will be a well-used addition to the library of any practitioner who evaluates or treats potentially suicidal individuals, or provides clinical supervision for someone who does.