Recently, Netflix released a new teen drama, 13 Reasons Why, in which the main character has died by suicide and sends tapes to people in her life explaining how their actions lead to her choice to end her life. I believe it is important to understand that suicide is connected to mental illness and the two must be recognized as concurrent conditions. Bullying often plays a role, but it is not the sole reason behind a suicide. This show does not reveal any connections between mental illness and suicide, it does not show young people what positive actions they can take to receive help and it focuses on placing blame on others.
This week I have been deeply disturbed by the premise of this show and it’s irresponsibility with its handling of teenaged suicide. It ignores what research reveals in cases of suicide prevention, specifically almost all of the research-based guidelines for depicting suicide in media conducted by the World Health Organization. Ultimately, the final episode focuses on illustrating the girl’s suicide in graphic detail. This is widely known to increase the risk of suicide, specifically imitative.
For many, your teens may have already seen the show. Make sure you talk to them about the nature of its content. Sensationalizing suicide is harmful and can have a drastic impact on the brains of our children. The frontal lobes of their brains have not completed growth and as a result rational thought is often diminished. This is just one of the reasons why what appears to be a simple TV show can profoundly influence your teen’s actions.
Additionally, if your child struggles with mental illness talk to them about how precious they are to God. Remind them that we bear His image, the image of the One who created all of heaven and earth (Genesis 1:27). Not only that, but His actions have proven to us His faithfulness and His word assures us that He is concerned with even the smallest details of our lives (Matthew 6:26).
When it comes to struggling with lies about our worth, we must remember to rely solely on Truth. Even in the midst of the most severe anxiety and deep depression, God’s word will not return void. Meditate on Scripture, not the fallacies of this dark, lost world in which we live.
If you need any help with knowing how to talk to your children, want some resources or need assistance with finding a mental health professional email me at email@example.com
By Kaitlyn Thompson
Kaitlyn is a social worker in League City. She and her husband Chase lead our student ministry at CityView Church in Pearland, TX.