Young adults and parents have been buzzing with mixed reviews about “13 Reasons Why,” the new Netflix show in which a young girl commits suicide.
The stated intention of the show is to start a dialogue about suicide. But its intensity and messaging are extremely concerning. This comes at a time when our Western Slope and mountain communities are home to far too many completed suicides.
Research shows that media portrayal of suicide as heroic or romantic leads to an increased risk of “copycat” behaviors in young adults exposed to that media. Conversely, media coverage that represents living through life’s difficulties and overcoming thoughts of suicide can lower a viewer’s risk for suicide.
The message that help is available and that many people who experience thoughts of suicide live through it is one of the most powerful mechanisms to combat suicide. The media holds a powerful position in our rapidly advancing digital world. We need more messages and conversation about the hope and help that’s available to people at their worst times.
Although life can be difficult and we sometimes feel like giving up, we know from people who’ve attempted suicide and lived to tell their story that putting in hard work and not giving up is well worth it.
It’s said suicide constitutes a permanent solution to a temporary problem. As adolescents are increasingly exposed to media interpretations of suicide like “13 Reasons Why,” it’s time to have real conversations about suicide within our families and communities.
It’s time to sit down with your teens who might have watched this show.
It’s time to discuss life’s hardships and ensure your friends, family and community members know that while difficulties affect us all, suicide is not the answer.
When you discuss “13 Reasons Why” and the topic of suicide, know this:
1. Help is available.
2. Treatment works.
3. There are people who love you, even if it sometimes doesn’t feel that way.
4. Life is full of ups and downs.
The ups will appear.
5. People get through difficulties and get to the other side alive. It happens many times every day.
6. Suicide is not heroic or romantic.
7. TV shows and media that depict suicide as an easy way out are wrong.
8. TV shows are not real life.
9. Suicide affects the survivors’ friends, family and community. The effects remain with them for the rest of their lives.
10. If you’re thinking about suicide, tell a family member or friend.
11. If you’re concerned someone you know is considering hurting themselves, ask them and connect them with resources for help. Tell them you care.
12. Say hello and smile. Share good cheer with others you encounter every day.
13. It takes the whole community to make a difference. Connect to your family and friends and reach out to those who aren’t connected.
Here are some resources to help:
Mind Springs health crisis line: (888) 207-4004.
Colorado crisis line: (844) 493-8255.
Colorado crisis text line: Text TALK to 38255
National suicide hotline: (800) 273-8255.
National suicide text line: Text START to 741741
Sharon Raggio serves as president and chief executive officer of Mind Springs Health, the largest provider of mental health and addiction treatment in Western Colorado. For more information, visit www.MindSpringsHealth.org