It’s important to have an open conversation around the TV show 13 Reason Why with your teen. Before you have that convo, take a moment to read reasons why suicide is becoming a bigger issue with teens.
You might be thinking, “Really, all this buzz for a TV Show?” Yes.
While the goal of the series was to spark conversation around depression and suicide so as to break the stigma, there are a number of concerns to consider, especially if your child or teen is struggling with depression.
Suicidal thoughts and teens are particularly tricky due to where teens generally are in their personal and neurological development. Teens are very egocentric, thinking mostly about themselves, their world, and how things affect them personally. This is why it is common for teens to feel like others are talking about them if they walk into a room and their peers stop talking or look at them. They also tend to focus on immediate issues, feelings, and thoughts. So much so that nothing else seems to exist!
They struggle to think of long-term consequences or take into consideration that things may change in the future. This is due to the fact that key areas in the brain are still growing. Specifically, the frontal lobe – which is responsible for problem-solving, planning, and thinking about long-term goals – is still relatively young in its development during the teenage years!
Additionally, feeling disconnected from others and peers greatly increases suicidal risk. This is a HUGE component of teenage years, were teen relationships are often fraught with drama and stress. So having friends drama is pretty typical. When your teen starts feeling isolated, ostracized, and disconnected their risk for suicide increases.
Lastly, research suggests that the media has an enormous impact on people when they cover suicides. Indeed, how the media handles the story can actually induce “suicide clusters,” meaning that if a person commits suicide in a particular city or school and the media highly covers it and perhaps glamorizes it, there is a tendency for more suicides to occur. In fact, if you live in a community in which a suicide occurs, you are at higher risk for suicide yourself, even without any mental health issues!
So what do you do?
Talk about it with your teen (See our blog: 13 Questions to Ask Your Teen About 13 Reasons Why). Talking about suicide does not make your teen suicidal. But if your teen is sharing they are having some of these thoughts, they really need you to support them and they likely need a psychologist to help them through this difficult time.