Many of you are familiar with one of the newest Netflix dramas, “13 Reasons Why.” If you’re not, it’s based off a book about a young high school girl, Hannah Baker, who ends up committing suicide; but before she does that, she records and sends out thirteen cassettes, each about a specific student/person from her school that basically states why they were a “reason” she decided to end her life.
I’m not going to lie, I watched it. It was very well done. The characters were personable, I enjoyed parts of the plot, but what it finally came down to was the fact that was I was a part of the audience watching a young girl go through bullying, slut-shaming, and ultimately taking her own life (they showed exactly how she killed herself), and it made me feel sick.
I work with children every day at the hospital. Typically, we do have about one to two patients, maybe once or twice a week that are admitted for a suicide attempt. However, I have noticed that since “13 Reasons Why” was released at the end of March and became such a phenomenon, we have escalated to closer to one to three patients admitted for suicide attempts/ideation per DAY. At one point, we had FIVE in one day.
Here are 13 things I feel you should know when it comes to suicide.
- Be on High Alert During Certain Times of the Year
There are times where, statistically, admits for suicide are more likely to occur; right before a school break (spring break, Christmas break), right before school starts or ends, or even sometimes right before a big event (prom). However, these occurrences are happening outside of these statistically high points of the year and I believe it has a great deal to do with this Netflix series.
- Talking About Death or Suicide
When a child or teen starts talking extensively about suicide or death, it can be a red flag. If they are writing or drawing things that have to do with death, these are also signs of someone who may be contemplating suicide.
- Withdrawing from Others
When a child or teenager feels so depressed that they feel they can no longer do the hobbies they love such as music, sports, baking/cooking or even keeping up with their personal hygiene; this can be a sign of something deeper.
- Giving Away Personal Items
In that same sense of withdrawing, if a child or teenager starts to give away his/her items that they used to love such as his/her guitar, lucky basketball, or toy this can be a warning sign that the child is feeling that they will no longer need these items because they don’t plan on being around much longer.
- Sudden Change in Behavior
If a child who was once calm and compliant becomes hostile and aggressive, this can be a warning sign as well.
- Change in Appearance
While a change in appearance can be a completely normal thing for a teenager, such as switching up their wardrobe or changing their hair color, completely neglecting their appearance is unusual and should be taken seriously. Teenagers are at the age where they obsess over their looks. Be on alert if a teenager who once cared about his or her appearance, suddenly stops caring.
- Risk Taking Behaviors
When a child starts acting out in an aggressive manner, unlike before, this can be a sign of suicidal thoughts. Especially if following the risky behavior, such as speeding in their car, are conversations such as “well, no one would miss me anyways.” While we may think statements like this are a joke, know that there can be subtle hints given by the teenager long before any attempts of suicide take place.
- Open Conversations about Depression
If a teenager or child feels that they can open up to you about their depression, anger, feelings of hopelessness or loneliness, please take these conversations seriously. It could be a cry for help that they are just hoping someone will hear. If they feel they are not being heard, this can reinforce their desire to end their life.
- Decline in School
If a child or teenager who normally excels in school begins to get low grades, fails to turn in their homework, or skips school these can all be signs of suicide.
- News Reports of Suicide
While this one may not seem as serious, it definitely is. Just like there are Copy-Cat Murders or Serial Killers, there can also be Copy-Cat Suicides as well. When someone is depressed and they see or hear of someone completing the act of suicide, this can be a trigger for the depressed teenager to want to do the same. Especially if the news goes into great detail about how exactly the person committed suicide.
- Stressful Life Events
If someone has experienced a recent break-up, unwanted pregnancy, abortion, etc., this can lead some teenagers to want to end their life. These feelings of loneliness, depression or anxiety should not be taken lightly, but talked about openly and freely in order to help the teenager cope.
- Running Away from Home
Teens who are homeless were noted in the Huffington Post to contemplate suicide three times as often as teenagers who had a home/stability. If a child or teen is repeatedly running away, they may soon think that there might be a final option (suicide) instead.
- Start the Discussion
Teen suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers. This is something that we can have an active part in preventing. The series, “13 Reasons Why” shows us this by all of the people that Hannah Baker felt had a vital part in her decision to kill herself. While I’m not a fan of the how the show demonstrated this through what seemed like “revenge suicide,” I do think that there are some things that we can do to help each other feel valued rather than worthless, which is exactly how Hannah felt.
If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, get help immediately. Do not ignore the signs. There are people out there who love and care about you and want you to succeed in LIFE not DEATH.
There is a 24-hour suicide hotline that can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 or if you’d feel more comfortable chatting with someone anonymously online, you can go to https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ and click the CHAT button on the upper right hand corner.