Since its release in late March, the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” has been spawning plenty of conversation and controversy across households, classrooms and even our own treatment facilities.
Recently, our clinical leadership team met to discuss the dramatic spike in adolescent admissions to our inpatient units since March. Suicide attempts – or thoughts of suicide – are not new to those we serve at Walden. The mortality rate in people with anorexia nervosa (AN) is the highest of any psychiatric illness. Suicide rates among those with eating disorders can range from 13-31%.
There is no shortage of opinions about the “contagion” factor related to suicide and the viewing of this show. While we can say first-hand that “13 Reasons Why” has shown to be a catalyst to harmful behavior among some patients we have admitted, it would be unfair to assume full responsibility to the content in a television series. There is also the probability that the show has encouraged more adolescents to seek proper help, especially in cases where they might have been too afraid or lacked the confidence prior.
We could easily write a blog about all the ways with which “13 Reasons Why” missed the mark regarding appropriate portrayals of teen mental health and what goes on in the adolescent brain. Rather than critique the show for its shortfalls, however, we thought it would be better use of our voice to focus on the pieces of this story we can learn and grow from as a community.
The show, like many of the interpersonal interactions, videos and images that teens are exposed to daily, will impact some adolescents in profound ways. Self-harm, suicidal ideation and suicide are terms that can illicit strong emotions and even fear. A conversation that ignores them and their lasting repercussions, however, can be much more damaging.
The question for all of us as providers, relatives or as friends remains: how can we help our loved ones and students/clients/patients access proper mental health treatment and support prior to feeling as though they have no other option?
Our answer: We can all become better informed and we must not be afraid to have these conversations. Awareness PLUS action is powerful.
If you or someone you know is in need, below is a list of invaluable resources. Remember: these came to be because someone survived and wants others to do the same.
Do you experience thoughts of suicide, but don’t know where to turn?
1). 9-1-1.: If you feel that you are currently a danger to yourself, calling “911” will connect you with local emergency personnel.
2). Samaritans: For those in the Greater Boston area, the Samaritans offer a 24/7 hotline, educational outreach and grief counseling services. They can be reached at 877-870-4673.
3). The National Suicide Lifeline: The Lifeline offers free and confidential support around the clock as well as crisis and prevention services for individuals, families and professionals. It can be reached at 1-800-273-8255
Are you concerned about your mental health or someone else’s?
4). Screening for Mental Health: You can take this free online screening. (Remember, a screening is an assessment tool, and is not a substitute for professional care.)
Are you looking for the nearest place for some help?
5). SAMHSA: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) has a behavioral health treatment services locator. The nearest services for many types of treatment will be listed based on your location.
6). Urgent Care Facilities. Emergency rooms and Urgent Care Centers have staff on hand to deal with mental health emergencies. If you don’t know where your nearest emergency room is, your local fire and police stations can direct you. This website can also help.
Do you need some support in dealing with a loved one who struggles with thoughts of suicide or has other issues that concern you?
7). Help Guide: This site offers self-help tools for recognizing warning signs and risk factors for suicidal behavior, and tips for helping someone who is struggling.
10). Walden Behavioral Care: Walden provides specialized eating disorders treatment at all levels of care, and for all ages, located in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Atlanta, GA.
11). The Walden Center for Education and Research: Prevention can go a long way. This not-for-profit organization provides prevention education to school communities, health professionals and other interested groups by request.
Are you are interested in suicide and suicide prevention in specific “higher-risk” populations (LGBTQ, veterans, Native Americans, for example)?