The trending Netflix series 13 Reasons Whybased on a young adult novel of the same name, is raising such concerns.
The series revolves around year-old Hannah Baker, who takes her own life and leaves behind audio recordings for 13 people who she says in some way were part of why she killed herself. Each tape recounts painful events in which one or more of the 13 individuals played a role. Producers for the show say they hope the series can help those who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide.
However, the series, which many teenagers are binge watching without adult guidance and support, is raising concerns from suicide prevention experts about the potential risks posed by the sensationalized treatment of youth suicide. The series graphically depicts a suicide death and addresses in wrenching detail a of difficult topics, such a bullying, rape, drunk driving, and slut shaming.
The series also highlights the consequences of teenagers witnessing assaults and bullying i. We do not recommend that vulnerable youth, especially those who have any degree of suicidal ideation, watch this series. They may easily identify with the experiences portrayed and recognize both the intentional and unintentional effects on the central character. While many youth are resilient and capable of differentiating between a TV drama and real life, engaging in thoughtful conversations with them about the show is vital.
Doing so presents an opportunity to help them process the issues addressed, consider the consequences of certain choices, and reinforce the message that suicide is not a solution to problems and that help is available. This is particularly important for adolescents who are isolated, struggling, or vulnerable to suggestive images and storylines.
What the series does accurately convey is that there is no single cause of suicide. Indeed, there are likely as many different pathways to suicide as there are suicide deaths. However, the series does not emphasize that common among most suicide deaths is the presence of treatable mental illnesses.
Suicide is not the simple consequence of stressors or coping challenges, but rather, it is most typically a combined result of treatable mental illnesses and overwhelming or intolerable stressors. School psychologists and other school-employed mental health professionals can assist stakeholders e. Read these helpful points from SAVE.
Brock, S. National Association of School Psychologists. Bethesda, MD: Author. Preventing Youth Suicide: Brief Facts and Tips Share this handout with basic information on warning s and prevention measures for youth suicide. Preventing Youth Suicide: Tips for Parents and Educators Parents and teachers are in a key position to identify warning s and get youth the help they need.
Model School District Policy on Suicide Prevention This document outlines model language, commentary, and resources on best practices for school districts to follow to protect the health and safety of all students. Cautions We do not recommend that vulnerable youth, especially those who have any degree of suicidal ideation, watch this series.
Children and youth who view this series will need supportive adults to process it. Take this opportunity to both prevent the risk of harm and identify ongoing social and behavior problems in the school community that may need to be addressed.
Help students articulate their perceptions when viewing controversial content, such as 13 Reasons Why. Reinforce that school-employed mental health professionals are available to help. Emphasize that the behavior of the second counselor in the series is understood by virtually all school-employed mental health professionals as inappropriate. It is important that all school-employed mental health professionals receive training in suicide risk assessment. Make sure parents, teachers, and students are aware of suicide risk warning s.
Always take warning s seriously, and never promise to keep them secret. Establish a confidential reporting mechanism for students. Threats can be verbal or written, and they are often found in online postings. Giving away prized possessions. Preoccupation with death in conversation, writing, drawing, and social media.
This can include someone who is typically sad who suddenly becomes extremely happy. Emotional distress. Students who feel suicidal are not likely to seek help directly; however, parents, school personnel, and peers can recognize the warning s and take immediate action to keep the youth safe. When a student gives s that they may be considering suicide, take the following actions: Remain calm, be nonjudgmental, and listen.
Strive to understand the intolerable emotional pain that has resulted in suicidal thoughts. Ask the student directly if they are thinking about suicide i. Focus on your concern for their well-being and avoid being accusatory. Reassure the student that there is help and they will not feel like this forever. Provide constant supervision. Do not leave the student alone. Without putting yourself in danger, remove means for self-harm, including any weapons the person might find.
Get help. Never agree to keep a student's suicidal thoughts a secret.
Instead, school staff should take the student to a school-employed mental health professional. Parents should seek help from school or community mental health resources. Students should tell an appropriate caregiving adult, such as a school psychologist, administrator, parent, or teacher. School or district officials should determine how to handle memorials after a student has died.
Promote memorials that benefit others e.
It may lead to imitative behaviors or a suicide contagion Brock et al. Reinforcing resiliency factors can lessen the potential of risk factors that lead to suicidal ideation and behaviors. Once or adolescent is considered at risk, schools, families, and friends should work to build these factors in and around the youth.
Family support and cohesion, including good communication. Peer support and close social networks. School and community connectedness. Cultural or religious beliefs that discourage suicide and promote healthy living. Adaptive coping and problem-solving skills, including conflict resolution. General life satisfaction, good self-esteem, and a sense of purpose. Easy access to effective medical and mental health resources. Strive to ensure that all student spaces on campus are monitored and that the school environment is truly safe, supportive, and free of bullying.
If additional guidance is needed, ask for support from your building- or district-level crisis team. The team may be able to assist with addressing unique situations affecting your building. Guidance for Families Ask your child if they have heard or seen the series 13 Reasons Why. Raising the issue of suicide does not increase the risk or plant the idea.
On the contrary, it creates the opportunity to offer help. Ask your child if they think any of their friends or classmates exhibit warning s.
Talk with them about how to seek help for their friend or classmate. Guide them on how to respond when they see or hear any of the warning s. Doing so requires that you fully concentrate, understand, respond, and then remember what is being said. Put your own agenda aside. Safe Messaging for Students Suicide is never a solution. It is an irreversible choice regarding a temporary problem. There is help. Don't be afraid to talk to your friends about how they feel and let them know you care about them.
Report concerns. Never promise to keep secret behaviors that represent a danger toward another person. Suicide is preventable. People considering suicide typically say something or do something that is a warning .
Always take warning s seriously and know the warning s. Suicide threats, both direct "I am going to kill myself.