AMITA Health Behavioral Medicine Institute
 
Popular TV Series Puts Spotlight on Suicide
Are Kids Prepared for What They’re Seeing?

The popular Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, which is based on the popular book by Jay Asher, has been causing a great deal of conversation among youth, parents and professionals alike. The series follows a group of high school students as they piece together a story left behind for them by their classmate, Hannah Baker, who died by suicide.  

Many have expressed concern over the appropriateness of this series for young viewers, however, it has raised awareness for mental health issues and pushed these important topics to the forefront.  Although it does not necessarily promote suicide prevention, the show has paved the way for many to have open dialogues with young people around mental health awareness – specifically depression and suicide.

13 Reasons Why
TV series brings tough topics like suicide to the forefront with kids.
 
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“While this series is seen by many as controversial, it does provide opportunities for parents and professionals to have open dialogue about the show in order to help these young people process the issues addressed,” said Jackie Rhew, LCPC, Therapist and Clinical Liaison, AMITA Health Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital, Hoffman Estates. Rhew adds, “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Engaging in thoughtful conversations with our children about mental health issues can allow our young people an opportunity to process the issues addressed, consider the consequences of certain choices, and convey a message that help is available for those who are struggling.”

The treatment teams at AMITA Health Behavioral Medicine Institute work with youth daily to help them overcome adversity and develop resiliency by helping them gain increased self-awareness, coping strategies and ways to recognize and utilize positive support systems. Most recently, part of that therapeutic work recently has been helping parents and their children discuss the issues raised by this series.

The clinical experts at AMITA Health Behavioral Medicine believe that parents and professionals have a significant impact on children and frequently find that children do, in fact, hear what we are saying – even if they do not always appear to be listening. Creating an open dialogue around difficult issues creates an opportunity to correct misconceptions and decrease the anxiety that comes with uncertainty, both for the child as well as the parent. Parents are reminded that they have a lot of influence on their children and what they say does matter to them. 

AMITA Health Behavioral Medicine offers tips to engage children in these tough conversations:

  1. Foster an open dialogue with your child regarding the series 13 Reasons Why. Ask if they have seen, heard of, or have been discussing the series with peers or others. While you may not feel comfortable recommending that your child watch the series alone, offer to view it with them if they express an interest or intent to see it and then discuss their thoughts and feelings regarding the series. It is recommended not to let vulnerable children watch the show in isolation.
  2. Listen to your child’s comments without judgment. Doing so requires that you fully concentrate, understand, respond, and then remember what is being said. Put your own agenda aside.
  3. Get help from a mental health professional if you are concerned for your child’s safety or the safety of one of their peers.
  4. Help them identify some other trusted adults and positive supports.
  5. Show them concern without judgment.
  6. Acknowledge their feelings.

The national, nonprofit JED Foundation offers helpful talking points for the series 13 Reasons Why: https://www.jedfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/13RW-Talking-Points-JED-SAVE-Netflix.pdf

Caution: This series contains mature content including sexual assault, bullying and a graphic depiction of suicide. Please be aware that it may not be appropriate for more vulnerable youth, and the age of your child should be a consideration. 

Warning signs are indicators that a person may be in acute danger and may urgently need help. While not an exhaustive list, below are some warning signs to look out for that may be present:

 
Warning Signs of Suicide
 
Warning signs are indicators that a person may be in acute danger and may urgently need help.
 
Difficulties in school
Loss of interest in daily activities
Change in personality, mood or appearance
Withdrawal from others – isolating
Impulsiveness and unnecessary risk taking
Lack of connection to family and friends
Current talk of suicide or wanting to die, hopelessness, preoccupation with death
Interest in websites or videos highlighting depression/suicide
Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless
Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
Displaying extreme mood swings
 

If you are concerned that a loved one or someone you know may be experiencing some of the above mentioned symptoms, or to learn more about all of AMITA HealthÕs behavioral health and addiction services, please contact an AMITA Health expert advisor at 855.383.2224 or go to AMITAhealth.org/BehavioralMedicine for more information.

 
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Resources
Self-Injury Recovery Services

Adolescent Outpatient Programs

Violence Prevention Services: Developing Alternatives to Bullying, Relational Violence and Suicide
 
 
Contact Us
Jackie Rhew, LCPC, Therapist and Clinical Liaison
AMITA Health Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital
847-668-2842
Jackie.Rhew@amitahealth.org

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Clinical Intake Advisors are available 24/7 at 855.383.2224.
 
 
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