1st Edition

Youth Mental Health Crises and the Broken Social Link A Freudian-Lacanian Perspective

By Carl Waitz Copyright 2025
    240 Pages
    by Routledge

    240 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book critically examines the circumstances surrounding the failure of rites of passage in U.S. society and its relationship with the mental health crisis overtaking youth in America today.

    The book develops a Freudian understanding of rites of initiation and the larger social link, based on Freud’s psychoanalytic myths read through a Lacanian lens. It further surveys the deterioration of common civil identifications in the United States, the advancement of consumer capitalism in the late 20th century, and the development of social media in the 21st century as each composing a tectonic shift destabilizing the traditional function of the rite of initiation. As a result, adolescents today have no reliable method of entering the social link through symbolic identification, nor the ability to use it to bind their libido. The book traces the clinical consequences of this failure to the recent waves of mass psychogenic illness in adolescents, the rocketing increase in psychiatric hospitalizations, and the dramatic rise in suicidal thoughts and behaviours in the past years. It also offers possible pathways forward for both adolescents and psychoanalytic clinicians working with them.

    Drawing on multiple psychoanalytic schools of thought and clinical experience, this book is a vital resource for psychoanalysts, psychotherapists, and clinicians working with adolescents.

    Part 1: Antecedents  1. Rites of Passage and Suicide: The youth mental health crisis, Van Gennep, and Durkheim  2. An Oedipal odyssey: Freud’s iterations of the father  3. Lacanian glosses on Freudian bosses: Further thoughts on the father  Part 2: The Disease of the Infinite  4. For the love of God almighty: A Brief History of the Social Link and Civil Religion in the US  5. The Impact of Consumer Capitalism on the Social Link  6. A Broken Image: Technological Advancement and Youth Mental Health  Part III: Le Mal de la Jeunesse  7. The Murder of Agamemnon  8. Stigma and Stigmata  9. The Loss of Not Knowing  Part 4: Psychoanalysis in Society  10. Crooked Cures  11. Elements of an Ethical Response  12. Fantasia


    Carl Waitz, PsyD is an attending psychologist at Boston Children's Hospital and on faculty at Harvard Medical School. He supervises psychiatry and psychology trainees, teaches at Boston University, and has served as President of the Massachusetts Association for Psychoanalytic Psychology. He has a small private practice serving adolescents and young adults.

    "Freud said adolescence was a chance at a cure, one that often enough ends in complete devastation. The western world seems to be traversing a volatile adolescence, searching for a new form of maturity. Carl Waitz’s book is a stunning guide for a world without any rites of passage."

    Jamieson Websterauthor and psychoanalyst

    "The kids are not ok – smart and kind they may be, but anxious and overworked; suicide second to accidents as a killer of teens. This meticulously argued and solidly researched book addresses burning questions relevant to youth mental health. Combining Lacanian psychoanalysis with sociology and anthropology, Waitz builds an indispensable clinical tool that opens new intellectual vistas."

    Patricia Gherovicipsychoanalyst and author of Transgender Psychoanalysis