Suicide Prevention at EPS and 13 Reasons Why
By Dr. Kelly Moore, Director of Student Support Services
Thank you to all the parents who attended the Suicide Prevention Training on Tuesday evening. We feel so heartened that so many of you are willing to prevent this all-too-prevalent cause of adolescent death. For those of you who were not able to attend, a few things to note.
- This week, we kicked off our prevention campaign headed by the Peer Mentors called “Just Ask.” There are posters around campus and our mentors are posting the “Just Ask” campaign (designed by a 9th-grade graphic design student) on social media. The “Just Ask” campaign hopes to debunk the myth that asking about suicide increases suicidal behavior or somehow “puts the idea in someone’s head.” Rather, asking about suicide is a life-saving effort in which we hope all will partake. (click here to view: JUST ASK poster)
- Next week our 10th, 11th and 12th graders will be trained by our Peer Mentors (with the support of our trained suicide prevention team) in suicide prevention. They will be taught the LEARN steps and trained how to notice signs and ask about suicidal ideation. 9th graders are receiving this training in their Wellness classes.
One topic that came up in our discussion was the recent Netflix series called 13 Reasons Why, which is based on Jay Asher’s novel and has graphic depictions of rape, bullying, and suicide. This show has generated a great deal of discussion along with widely divided reactions to the topic of suicide. Many students are talking about this series and it has affected them in different ways so we wanted to address it with you as well as pass on some talking points from SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education), along with a media statement from Forefront—the UW organization with which we have been partnering for suicide prevention. We hope you take time to read both the talking points and the Forefront statement and consider carefully whether and/or how your child watches this series. At the very least, if your student plans on or has already watched it, we encourage you to also watch it so you are aware of the content and can talk openly about it with your student.
Talking Points about 13 Reasons Why from SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education)
- 13 Reasons Why is a fictional story based on a widely known novel and is meant to be a cautionary tale.
- You may have similar experiences and thoughts as some of the characters in 13RW. People often identify with characters they see on TV or in movies. However, it is important to remember that there are healthy ways to cope with the topics covered in 13RW and acting on suicidal thoughts is not one of them.
- If you have watched the show and feel like you need support or someone to talk to—reach out. Talk with a friend, family member, a counselor, or therapist. There is always someone who will listen.
- Suicide is not a common response to life’s challenges or adversity. The vast majority of people who experience bullying, the death of a friend, or any other adversity described in 13RW do not die by suicide. In fact, most reach out, talk to others and seek help or find other productive ways of coping. They go on to lead healthy, normal lives.
- Suicide is never a heroic or romantic act. Hannah’s suicide (although fictional) is a cautionary tale, not meant to appear heroic and should be viewed as a tragedy.
- It is important to know that, in spite of the portrayal of a serious treatment failure in 13RW, there are many treatment options for life challenges, distress, and mental illness. Treatment works.
- Suicide affects everyone and everyone can do something to help if they see or hear warning signs that someone is at risk of suicide.
- Talking openly and honestly about emotional distress and suicide is ok. It will not make someone more suicidal or put the idea of suicide in their mind. If you are concerned about someone, ask them about it.
- Knowing how to acknowledge and respond to someone who shares their thoughts of emotional distress or suicide with you is important. Don’t judge them or their thoughts. Listen. Be caring and kind. Offer to stay with them. Offer to go with them to get help or to contact a crisis line.
- How the guidance counselor in 13RW responds to Hannah’s thoughts of suicide is not appropriate and not typical of most counselors. School counselors are professionals and a trustworthy source for help. If your experience with a school counselor is unhelpful, seek other sources of support such as a crisis line.
- While not everyone will know what to say or have a helpful reaction, there are people who do, so keep trying to find someone who will help you. If someone tells you they are suicidal, take them seriously and get help.
- When you die, you do not get to make a movie or talk to people any more. Leaving messages from beyond the grave is a dramatization produced in Hollywood and is not possible in real life.
- Memorializing someone who died by suicide is not a recommended practice. Decorating someone’s locker who died by suicide and/or taking selfies in front of such a memorial is not appropriate and does not honor the life of the person who died by suicide.
- Hannah’s tapes blame others for her suicide. Suicide is never the fault of survivors of suicide loss. There are resources and support groups for suicide loss survivors.
If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide:
- Text START to 741-741
- Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Forefront Statement: http://www.intheforefront.org/press-room/13-reasons-why
As always, if you have any questions about this or anything else related to depression, suicide or suicide prevention at EPS, please don’t hesitate to contact Kelly Moore (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Jake Davis (email@example.com).