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13 Mental Health Questions about “13 Reasons Why”

     

The realistic portrayal of mental illness in television and movies can be an effective way to reduce stigma around psychiatric issues. But it can be troubling if those portrayals do not show options for treatment. A new Netflix show, 13 Reasons Why, has a large following on social media and has garnered media attention for its stark depictions of bullying, rape and suicide. It has also caused some to express concern that the show is “at odds with the way experts say we should talk about suicide,” a Washington Post article reports. Suicide prevention advocate MollyKate Cline told Teen Vogue, “my problem is that the audience is shown what not to do without examples of what they actually should do.”

What should you do when faced with issues of bullying, depression, trauma and suicide? Seeing these issues in pop culture can help to reduce stigma and shame around mental health, but it is just as important to learn the facts about mental health issues and seek reliable treatment.


teen-stairs-school

1. How can you prevent depression and anxiety?


2. How common is teen suicide?


3. What are warning signs of suicidal behavior?


4. What are contributing factors that make a person more likely to have suicidal thoughts and behaviors?


5. Is it anyone’s fault if someone dies by suicide?


6. Can friends and family prevent suicide?


If you need help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or go to www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org and Click to Chat


7. What should I do if a friend seems to have suicidal ideations?


8. What will happen to my friend if I tell an adult that my friend is suicidal?


9. What should I do if I’m thinking about suicide?


10. Why do people self-harm?


11. Is self-harm always a warning sign of suicidal thoughts?


12. What can I do if I know someone is being bullied?


13. Does bullying contribute to suicidal ideation?



Contributors

  • Jennifer B. Dwyer, M.D., Ph.D., APA/APAF Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellow
  • Swathi Krishna, M.D., SAMHSA Minority Fellow
  • Chandan Khandai, M.D., APA/APAF Leadership Fellow

     

AnxietyDepressionPatients and FamiliesAddiction

 

Comments (6) Add a Comment

  • Lora Williams

    Thanks! I thought this was a great article. I read it and discussed it with my teenager before I agreed to her continuing to watch this Netflix series. I think another important aspect to include here or bring up in a separate article are the behaviors we expect from teens vs. what we tolerate from adults. As adults, we discourage bullying in schools and youth centric arenas yet, openly mock political correctness / politeness as a liberal defect or cowardace. We publish, republish, and never discuss derogatory terms used to demonize, demoralize, and deligitimize another person by calling them a "snowflake, crybaby, whiner, etc. Adults experience anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation potentially triggered by adult bullying. We demonstrate physical bullying in our cars as we tailgate, flash our headlights, etc. Other areas of lives demonstrate agressive behavior against another to get our way. Our actual behaviors don't reflect our words / guidance to our children and teens and I do not see how the do as a say not as I do model is effective, especially when adult malbehavior is not also being addressed.

  • Andrew Philips

    Amazing health questions on health are discudded in this post.

  • Mary Rutherford, MD

    Is anyone collecting data on changes in the incidence of children and adolescents presenting to primary care or emergency departments with suicidal ideation or attempts that specifically cite "13 Reasons Why" as influencing them to consider suicide? This has been seen twice recently at our institution.

  • Anonymous

    Finally a forum that feels a little safer. Now, I'm going to dare to put myself out there and be vulnerable with hopes that my share will give some people hope and understanding if they have watched the series, 13 Reasons Why, and feel triggered. As I know what it's like to have experienced sexual trauma, currently have Major Depression and have experienced suicidal thoughts. For those of you, that will read these symptoms and judge, I hope you understand that I never asked for this laundry list – I’ve learned, though unhealthy, these are coping mechanisms that I’ve developed through the years. Now let me also preface, around 5 years ago, I started the difficult but grateful path of recovery. I currently have a huge support network: with a therapist, an AA sponsor, safe support friends that I'm able to call/text any time of day, and a loving and supportive partner. I wouldn’t say my life is easy but it’s better and more fulfilling. I wanted to write about this series b/c after I watched it, I immediately felt down. A sense of hopelessness. And I felt a need to reach out to others who might be feeling the same way. Okay the series - what I liked about it 1. That it’s real about how sucky High School is. Like many many people, I related so much to this. I remember having ‘so-called’ friends but never feeling like I belonged. I also remember being assaulted at my lockers b/c the football team liked my ass. And at the time I never said anything about it . . . . . These types of things, I think happen way too much during adolescence. I like that the series didn’t sugar coat this time in people’s lives. Everybody is just trying to survive and b/c of that, there is more pressure to hurt others to do so 2. I also liked how it showed the progression – how that NOBODY safe from the grasps of mental illness and depression if they experience continual traumas. Nobody. Hanna in the beginning of the series seemed like a happy and hopeful teenager but over time and after each negative experience and lack of support, she could no longer deal with all of those negative emotions. 3. What is positive is that the series was strong at reinforcing that ‘we’ should do better at supporting each other – how we should pay attention to ALL warning signs no matter how small. This seems to be the major theme of the entire series – encouraging others to help the ones who are considering suicide. Sadly this is all I really liked about the show . . . 4. While it does encourage people to help others battling with suicide, I hated that it did this blatant blame game. Literally many times, it said that other people caused Hanna’s death. If you have been in recovery, you would be should be very familiar with the feelings of ‘shame’ and ‘guilt’ and this is never helpful on either side. We should be in this together – not blaming each other. 5. Also, where I think it sadly went wrong and why I understand people find it triggering, it does absolutely nothing for the actual person who is dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts. In fact the very title tells us that ’13 reasons’ – she gives us 13 her-in-mind ‘valid’ reasons with 13 tapes supporting that. And yes, each reason is heart-breakingly awful but it is NEVER A REASON TO KILL YOURSELF. NEVER. 6. Also worse is that yes, the tapes seem to glorify and ‘validate’ her decision. Oh my god, after I watched it, my heart sank – all I wanted to do was grab everyone hurting out there and tell them that – THIS IS NOT THE WAY TO BE REMEMBERED. LIVING IS THE WAY TO BE REMEMBERED. Fuck those tapes. In my opinion these so called ‘tapes’ help to sell a more appealing story of revenge. And that is just sick. That’s not educating people about suicide. 7. Also, the series itself makes fun of ‘suicide prevention.’ Like when the students continually mock and pull down the ‘suicide prevention’ posters in the hall – like it’s stupid or useless. 8. Mostly, I’m angered that it does not talk about the main underlying issues such as depression and mental illness. I read that the makers of this series were trying to cut the taboo of suicide, well if they did their research – people don’t become suicidal. There is so much that starts before that and needs to be addressed and treated. First is the issue of ‘feelings.’ ‘Feelings’ in America are Taboo – we are supposed to be strong and hold it in all the times, and not cry. I’m sorry to say that life is tough, bad things are always going to happen to us but it’s how we deal with the feelings that arise from these negative situations. Gosh believe me, I wish we didn’t have to feel them sometimes. But in order to stay clear of depression, we have to hold and let our feelings pass through us. Last but not least, I also want to say that many times Major Depression is something that you’re not able to control. And I say this, to help lessen the guilt and shame that you might be feeling. Meaning that you might need the proper medication – this is something that I’ve learned in my personal recovery over that past few years. The right medication can be a life changer and help you function with more ease. Most important, it makes it more manageable for you to do the ‘real’ therapeutic work. When I was suicidal, I felt nothing – the kind of apathy where I no longer cared about my parents, my job, my relationship and eventually my life. It really scared me. And I knew that I needed some major help. Now b/c of this experience I know that I have to be on medication, have a healthy support system, and be in weekly therapy. If this happens, I’m a functional happy human being. I’m saying this. . b/c no matter how bad your situation . . There is treatment out there. There is a way to seek relief. Now I’m not saying that it’s going to be all flowers and puppy dogs (fuck is it ever) but it will rock your world in such a fulfilling way. I have learned that some of my most god-awful tragedies have turned into the most prolific scars. Meaning that it has strengthened me – it has provided me a doorway that not everybody is able to see or understand – empathy. And for that I’m internally grateful. So maybe this post will never be read and that’s okay but I just felt the need to share what I’ve learned with others so that maybe I could at least help someone who is hurting.

  • Dr. Dan Reidenberg

    Thank you for your post about 13RW. Could you please consider revising and updating the suicide warning signs section above, as it is not fully accurate. The only science based consensus warning signs of youth suicide are found at www.youthsuicidewarningsigns.org. You have listed there, for example, giving away possessions. That is commonly talked about but there isn't research data to support it. Another is writing good bye letters that isn't supported by research. Thank you.

  • Alison Mastin

    Thank you for putting this information out there! 13 Reasons Why is a very compelling, yet, unrealistic depiction of suicide. Teens need to know three things if they are going to watch this series or already have watched it: 1. Someone only needs one reason to commit suicide, 2. There are also 13 reasons why not, and 3. Suicide does not get one the revenge they are looking for because it is a permanent solution. There is so much out there on social media about this series, especially this week, and I am glad that some of the accurate information is being made available.

 

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