‘13 Reasons Why’ makes for a teachable moment

Lt. Cmdr. Rebecca Miranda
Navy Suicide Prevention Program Manager, MFSC

Brent Oto
Army Suicide Prevention Program Manager

The Netflix original miniseries “13 Reasons Why,” which is rated “MA” for mature audiences, is getting a lot of attention in the media.

It chronicles a high schooler’s suicide after she experiences a number of traumatic, negative life events, including bullying, underage drinking and sexual assault.

While many have voiced concerns about the series – that it risks contagion, includes graphic scenes, lacks positive help-seeking behaviors, highlights blame/ shame themes and presents suicide as a solution – the series also provides an opportunity to discuss suicide prevention and mental health in a positive light.

Fittingly, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. In response to the series, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the American School Counselor Association, and the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) have joined forces to highlight how the series could teach about suicide risk and mental health awareness.

On May 2, the State of Hawaii Department of Education sent home parent/guardian letters to inform parents about the series and the concerns raised by it, as well as, to encourage supportive adult involvement in processing discussions that arise from it. Many don’t realize that suicide is the second-leading cause of death among those ages 15-24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Considering the ages of our teens and many young service members, these statistics emphasize even more why we need to address suicide directly, and to have helpful discussions about life challenges and mental health.

In particular, the NASP has emphasized that adult engagement is critical and presents an opportunity to help process the issues addressed and reinforce the message that suicide is not a solution to problems and that help is available. Research shows that exposure to another person’s suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of death, can be one of the many risk factors that youth struggling with mental health conditions cite as a reason they contemplate or attempt suicide.

Here are tips for starting a discussion:

• Consider the audience. If you know someone who is vulnerable and has watched the series, pay extra attention to how they react.

• Talk to your younger service members or teens about the series and listen to what they say.

• Ask open-ended questions.

• Be cautious not to trivialize the series. What is portrayed is often a reality for many young adults.

• If you are concerned someone may be contemplating suicide, ask them directly. This gives a sense of relief that someone is willing to talk about difficult feelings.

• Model and encourage positive help-seeking behaviors. Emphasize the message, “You are never alone.”

• Learn how to talk about suicide. “safeTALK” and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training are military-funded, skills-based trainings that are interactive and designed to teach how to confidently and willingly ask about suicide. The Navy CREDO and Military and Family Support Center offer these workshops monthly. Visit www.greatlifehawaii.com or call 474-1999. For more information, call 474-0045 or 448-6377.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • RSS

Category: News