by Rachel Papke The Netflix series ‘13 Reasons Why’ has sparked a national conversation about suicide. We see this happen a lot when there’s a big story to tell that strikes a controversial cord. But here’s my opinion: These conversations need to extend beyond the short lifespan of a big story or a popular movie or series.
Whether you know it or not, there are people and organizations working tirelessly year-round to bring suicide prevention into the light. When will those efforts take the spotlight? It’s their work that should be our focus, that we should support and reference throughout the year to have meaningful conversations about mental health and suicide prevention. Suicide prevention efforts exist, persist, and extend far beyond the ‘13 Reasons Why.’
What can you do?
Engage in conversations with each other, your children, your communities, and beyond.
Why do we need to talk about suicide with high school students?
- 6% of Connecticut high school students said they felt sad or hopeless for 2 or more weeks in a row over the past 12 months*
- 4% of Connecticut high school students seriously contemplated suicide in the past year*
- 9% of Connecticut high school students attempted suicide in the past year*
- 4% of Connecticut high school students said they got the kind of help they needed when they felt sad, angry, hopeless, or anxious*
- Nationally, almost 1 in 4 high school females seriously considered suicide and 1 in 5 made a plan for how they would attempt suicide*
Suicide is a major public health concern, and we need to always have conversations using safe messaging, supporting help-seeking behavior.
Understand that suicide contagion is a real concern with decades of research to back up its existence. Because of the graphic and triggering content in this series the producers have a tremendous responsibility to adhere to safe messaging recommendations to prevent suicides.
Recently, Netflix responded to the myriad concerns from individuals and organizations regarding this and they are working to add more trigger warnings and place the www.13reasonswhy.info website at the start of the series so that it is visible and viewers know where to go if they need immediate help.
Talking about Suicide
If you’re not sure where to start, I’ve included links to help you start that conversation. Please take the time to educate yourself. Then, start the conversation utilizing these resources to help you. Please share these resources with your network to help keep the conversation going in a safe way that promotes mental health and prevents suicide.
Ask your child, “How are you feeling?”
Maybe they’re embarrassed to share their thoughts with others. Or, they’ve tried talking about it, but don’t feel anyone listened or understood. Help them understand that there are friends, family members, counselors, and therapists available that want to help and are ready to listen.
If you, a friend or family member is struggling emotionally, you, are not alone. The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255.
Rachel Papke is the Communications Manager at the Jordan Porco Foundation charity. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- CT Suicide Advisory Board
- JED Foundation 13 Reasons Why Talking Points
- Parental Perspective
- Safe Messaging
- Teachable Moments from “13 Reasons Why”
Note: The opinions expressed in this perspective piece are personal, and not those of the Jordan Porco Foundation. This content is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as mental health advice from the individual author or the Jordan Porco Foundation. You should consult a mental health professional for advice regarding your individual situation. If you need support now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or, text HOME to 741741 to get help 24/7 from the Crisis Text Line. If you or someone you know needs help, you can visit the Jordan Porco Foundation’s resources page.
*2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey data from the Connecticut DPH and the CDC