Suicide is the second leading cause of death among tweens, teens, and young adults. Adults and adolescents need to understand the symptomology and have appropriate tools at hand.
“After a period of stability from 2000 to 2007, the suicide rate among adolescents and young adults aged 10–24 in the United States increased 57.4 percent from 6.8 per 100,000 in 2007 to 10.7 in 2018. When examining the change in rates between 3-year averages of the periods 2007–2009 (7.0) and 2016–2018 (10.3), the national percentage increase was 47. percent,” according to the CDC.
Teenagers are particularly susceptible to peer pressure, and Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why” portrays the events leading up to a young woman’s suicide in an unhealthy manner. NAMI contends the series negatively affects this vulnerable group.
After watching the controversial series, adults are left with a tangle of emotions. One can only imagine how adolescents react to the events that led up to Hannah’s suicide — the focal character. Adults exhibiting training and compassion are key factors missing from the Netflix series.
Unfortunately, according to NAMI, the first season of “13 Reasons Why” depicts Hannah’s actions as a revenge suicide.
On the show, it seems as though she took her life in retaliation after being bullied, raped, and slut-shamed, which led to her depressed state of mind.
NAMI warns that viewers should not dismiss the impact TV programs, movies, the news, and social media can have, especially on younger, not fully developed minds. The mental health alliance states:
Research has extensively shown that the way media covers suicide can lead to greater suicide risk. That’s why ReportingOnSuicide.org provides a specific set of guidelines to avoid media-prompted suicides from happening. “13 Reasons Why” violated these guidelines by graphically depicting Hannah taking her life.
Nowhere in the series is mental health or psychological illnesses discussed. Statistically, 90 percent of those who commit suicide have an underlying condition. In most cases, if the person receives appropriate care, suicide is preventable.
Essential Tools for Suicide Prevention
For family, friends, and authority figures, awareness training is the first and foremost tool necessary. Even a layperson has the wherewithal to help another person find the assistance they need.
According to the CDC, there are more than 40,000 suicides every year; that number includes children and adults. When one dies by their own hand, they leave behind their family, friends, and acquaintances to navigate through feelings of loss and, sometimes, betrayal.
Having the much-needed tools may have prevented the suicide rate of teenaged girls from tripling — 1999 to 2014. Outreach and prevention must take place before the child takes their life. Afterward, the tragedy “should be talked about in a way that doesn’t raise anyone’s risk for increasing that already too-high statistic.”
Knowing the warning signs, risk factors and learning to identify the thoughts and feelings behind suicidal ideation are the greatest hope of preventing an otherwise senseless death. Risk factors include a family history of suicide; substance abuse, drugs, or alcohol; access to firearms; chronic or acute medical illness; a history of trauma or abuse, prolonged stress, isolation, a recent loss or tragedy, or agitation and sleep deprivation.
Additionally, while more women attempt suicide, more men actually die as a result, and those under 24 and over 65 are at a higher risk.
Warning signs include increased usage of drugs or alcohol; aggressive behavior; overall withdrawal from family, friends, and others; dramatic mood swings; impulsive behavior, and writing or talking about suicide. A huge warning that should not be dismissed, no matter how insignificant, is threats or comments about taking their own life. Even statements such as, “I wish I wasn’t here” are not benign and warrant attention.
Suicidal ideation often causes people to prepare for their upcoming death. The big question here: “Is there imminent danger?” Anyone who exhibits the following behaviors should be referred to a licensed mental health professional immediately.
- Giving away their belongings, essentially getting their affairs in order;
- Making grand gestures of love and bidding friends and family goodbye;
- A change in their mood, becoming calm instead of exhibiting despair, which can seem as though they are actually feeling better.
- While it is not often someone would notice, the person might be trying to buy or steal what they need to commit suicide. This could include a gun or drugs.
Agencies Offering Tools for Prevention
Many organizations offer training and open discussion to educate the public about the consequences of being ill-prepared.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides support for those in distress, prevention, and crisis resources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week;
- The Crisis Text Line. By texting “NAMI” to 741741, a person can speak with a trained crisis counselor;
Ok2Talk is a safe place for teens and young adults who are struggling with mental health problems.
- Through the NAMI-sponsored community, youngsters may share their tales of struggle, tragedy, hope, or recovery. Users must be no older than 24 years old;
- Starting the Conversation: College and Your Mental Health provides a guide for young adults and parents to begin meaningful discussions about mental health before college begins;
- NAMI Ending the Silence is a 50-minute, in-classroom presentation for middle and high schoolers. The program helps them to understand mental illness;
- Say it Out Loud has a toolkit that includes a discussion guide, facts sheets, and a film that will enable adults to dialogue with teens about mental health challenges;
The NAMI HelpLine can off a caller empathy and support. Further information about local resources is also offered.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
CDC: National Vital Statistics Report: State Suicide Rates Among Adolescents and
Young Adults Aged 10–24: United States 2000–2018
NAMI: “13 Reasons Why” Hurts Vulnerable Teens
SELF: ’13 Reasons Why’ Is Not the Force of Mental Health Awareness People Say It Is
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First Inset Image Courtesy of NIH Image Gallery’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
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Bottom Image Courtesy of Cathy Milne-Ware’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License