13 Reasons Why We Need to Talk About 13 Reasons Why

She was only 11. A beautiful fifth grader who was being teased at school. She posted her intent to die on Snapchat and proceeded to walk up 16 flights of steps and jump to her death.  This tragic and totally unnecessary death happened just a few days ago. But unless your head is in the sand, you know how often these stories are appearing in the news these days.  

What is going on? 

Last September I was asked to attend the New York State Suicide Prevention conference and present the findings from our university study on Club Comfort.  Our programs have been shown to teach students how to form connections with those who are hurting and so we presented in the “Innovative Interventions in Youth Suicide Prevention” breakout.  At this conference I met Dr. John Draper who runs the National Suicide Prevention Helpline. His keynote address opened my eyes to a crisis we all need to open our eyes to. 

And fast. 

One of the topics of conversation at this conference was the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. This series follows a teenage boy who receives a series of cassette tapes recorded by a female teenage classmate who recently committed suicide. The tapes explain to her peers how they each played a role in her death…. The “13 reasons why” she committed suicide. Netflix will tell us that this series is meant for good. Meant to “start a conversation”. But the series does little to point out the depth of the crisis or depict positive ways to prevent it.  

I’ve seen the aftermath of suicide. I’ve been to one too many of these tragedies with the Comfort Dogs. Too many shattered lives and too many fears for others who may have suicidal thoughts and want to be a copycat.  I realized that it’s hard to have a conversation about something that you really don’t have much information about.  So that’s why I’m writing this blog. I picked up the phone and had a fabulous follow up conversation with Dr. Draper, scoured the internet and read some books for a few supporting facts. 

Here are my 13 Reasons Why we need to talk more about suicide: 

1.     Suicide has surpassed the number of vehicle deaths per year – 44,193 to 37,757 per year[1]

2.     There has been a 100% increase in the suicide rate in kids 10-17 years old since 2011[2]

3.     Suicide is the #2 killer in children[3]

4.     1 out of 6 High School students will think about suicide[4]

5.     1 out of 8 high school students has a suicide plan[5]

6.     1 out of 13 high school students will attempt suicide[6]

7.     1 in 5 children currently have mental health problems[7]

8.     There has been a 50% increase in clinical level depression between 2011- 2015[8]

9.     37% of students recently polled have reported being cyber bullied[9]

10.     There is a 50% decline in teens getting together with their friends in the past 15 years[10]

11.     Teens are 56% more likely to be unhappy if they spend 10+ hours a week on social media[11]

12.     Online relationships are diminishing our kid’s social skills. If you have a teenager in the house, you know what I’m talking about. For this young generation, talking face to face with anyone is becoming awkward. They now live in a world where they can craft every single word on a screen and photo shop their images.  

13.     Most of us are not aware that we can all play a critical role in reversing these horrific trends.   

Here are 13 things we can do:

1.     Put. Down. The. Phone. We are losing our way. We get caught up in our own little world.  When you watch someone on their phones is as if they are in their own bubble. Right? That’s me. I’m guilty of it. We refresh our Facebook feed and answer emails instead of talking to the people right in front of us. 

2.     Spend part of your day looking for people who are hurting. Hint: everyone is. 53% of adults do not have someone outside of their family to confide in.[12]  Most people are craving friendship and community. Go find them.  

3.     Start keeping a list of all of the people in your life going through a tough time.  If you don’t write it down, you will forget.  Keep the list somewhere you can look at it daily. 

4.     Spend 10 of your Facebook/Instagram scrolling minutes communicating one on one with people instead of posting for the world to see. Send people you know are hurting a personal text…. Tell them you’re thinking about them and you care.  Surprise them with their favorite coffee.  Anything. Just make it personal. 

5.     Monitor your child’s phone usage. Start to keep track of how many hours they are on their phone a day.  Make goals to decrease the amount of time on it. Set limits.

6.     Put the whole family on a digital detox this summer when you are on vacation. I am going to do this and am already praying for strength. Phones will only be allowed during travel time. We will have one designated phone for videos and a real old-fashioned camera along. That’s it. Wish me luck.

7.     Do what you can to promote suicide prevention in your school and community.  It’s a problem we all need to tackle.  Federal funding for promoting awareness for suicide prevention lags funding for awareness to prevent vehicle deaths by 95%.[13]

8.     Know that suicide prevention starts with each and every one of us.  Dr. Draper stressed how the majority of prevention is notdone by mental health professionals. It is done by someone who cares and reaches out. Once someone knows they are cared for it’s easier for them to seek professional help. It is in all of our hands.  

9.     A fact you know: adolescents cannot reason like adults. They are faced with so many hormonal and social changes and don’t have life history. This is also the time in life that they start to separate from their parents and don’t share as much.  So, they are left out there with each other to struggle through this. The blind leading the blind.  They need your love and your boundaries and your curiosity. They need you to ask the hard questions and care. 

10. Encourage parties and friends over and camp and playdates.  It’s actually getting to the point where some of us have to demand that these happen. Kids these days prefer to stay on their phones with social media and Netflix. They honestly think it's ok to have their friendships online instead of face to face. You and I know the difference. They don't.

11.     Ask your kids if they have been cyberbullied and if they know others who have. I recently had a cyberbully incident that hit a little too close to home with my daughter. I saw the meanness, the language, the piling on, the cruelty. It left my mouth on the floor, my heart broken and my momma bear anger instinct kicking in. This is serious stuff.  Get involved and provide the safe place for them. They need you. 

12.     Be the example. Model behavior and actions that are loving & caring, that show how to resolve conflict and how to ask for help.  Demonstrate how “life happens”.  Everyone will at some point go through crisis and trauma. But there is alwayssomeone around to help them through it.  Many kids need to know this.  

13.     Encourage your school to implement mental health education with programs that promote connection, caring and empathy.  We just happen to have good ones to try. Explore our products, see what we do and please reach out if you want to hear more about how we do it. 

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline at 1-800-273-8255.

Comfort on my friends, comfort on….

Jen

Jen Marr is Founder & CEO of Inspiring Comfort LLC.  Learn more about these programs at www.inspiringcomfort.com

  1. cdc.gov
  2. Plemmons Williams Suicidality Trends
  3. Dr. Draper, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
  4. Dr. Draper, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
  5. Dr. Draper, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
  6. Dr. Draper, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
  7. NIMH.NIH.Gov
  8. iGen – Dr Jean Twenge
  9. Cyberbullying.org
  10. iGen – Dr Jean Twenge
  11. iGen – Dr Jean Twenge
  12. CBS News Lonely States of America
  13. Dr. Draper, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline