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13 reasons why to watch this series with your children

Recently someone mentioned to me that there is a new series, on Netflix, that many teenagers are watching, 13 Reasons Why.  I was told it was intense and covered many unfortunate situations our children face in daily living such as suicide, sexual assault, drinking, and just trying to belong.  So, I watched this series and at first, I was skeptical and had intense feelings about how this tortured young woman presented her torment to those whom she thought hurt her.  However, as I continued to watch, I couldn’t stop thinking about all the often unnoticed interactions that interconnect us all and have such an impact on our perceptions of self and others.  I had so many mixed feelings as I watched often teary eyed and overwhelmed, by the emotions it provoked in me, especially as a therapist and a mother.  Now I ask you, as someone who sees the pain of others daily, would you want to find out your child is watching this series without support to process those difficult emotions and the potential reality they see in this series as it relates to their own existence?  We tell them this is the ‘best time of their life”, but lets remember, its a time of self development, questioning of identity, learning to be independent and a lot of pressure to succeed.

So here are 13 reasons why, they need you, me, school and the community to support them in the discussion and how to cope with their feelings or experiences as it relates to suicide, sexual assault, bullying and related teen discourse.

  1.  We love them and although its hard, they NEED us!
  2. They love us and NEED us! No matter what they say or do!
  3. Like all of us they need to feel needed, seen and heard….validated even if we do not understand.
  4. They, we, can all benefit from learning the skills to deal with life difficulties vs. avoidance, having everyone fix them, or inadvertently negating the importance of their pain.
  5. They, we all, need a venue, a support system, a community to help promote self exploration, to have a voice, to speak up about the realities of their world without being seen as “just a kid” whose “life cannot be that bad”.
  6. We need to take bullying seriously, not let it go unnoticed, unaddressed, invalidated.  We have an opportunity to model self advocacy and promote our children to speak up about the injustices vs compliance and silence.  This promotes self confidence and independence.
  7.  Internal experiences and conflicts often go unspoken and fester into a tornado of unmanageable pain that feels intolerable.
  8.  We have the opportunity to learn and teach them that feelings are normal, life is hard, and that learning how to tolerate and accept these difficulties is essential in self preservation and that avoidance of those things that are painful only turns into suffering.  Its never too late to learn.
  9. That we LOVE them and we really are here to LISTEN, not just listen, but LISTEN and HEAR.  Reflect back what you heard, so they know you heard them and they can communicate their truth.
  10. We have the opportunity to connect with our children, to engage, to start a new way of communicating based on reality, feelings and how to get through it.
  11. We have the opportunity to communicate that we, you, me, everyone has experienced pain and seeking help is not to be shamed.  1 in 4 will struggle with anxiety and depression in any given year, so that means, eventually all of us.  Lets work to make it less taboo, we wouldn’t tell someone in a wheelchair to suck it up and get up and walk would we?
  12. Because we have the opportunity to know our children better, their struggles and identify if they need more support to manage their reality, not yours, theirs.

Not everyone who is suicidal appears depressed, not everyone who is depressed is suicidal.  Not everyone who is suicidal is mentally Ill, not everyone who is mentally ill is suicidal.  We all need support sometimes, its not shameful to need help, its self care.  Do not assume they are OK.  Watch for the signs.  Get involved.

Please see the following link for signs and support.

Know the Warning Signs (provided by the above website)

“Some warning signs may help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these, seek help by calling the Lifeline.”

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Extreme mood swings

 Know the Risk Factors (provided by above website)

“Risk factors are characteristics that make it more likely that someone will consider, attempt, or die by suicide. They can’t cause or predict a suicide attempt, but they’re important to be aware of.”

  • Mental disorders, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and certain personality disorders
  • Alcohol and other substance use disorders
  • Hopelessness
  • Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
  • History of trauma or abuse
  • Major physical illnesses
  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • Family history of suicide
  • Job or financial loss
  • Loss of relationship(s)
  • Easy access to lethal means
  • Local clusters of suicide
  • Lack of social support and sense of isolation
  • Stigma associated with asking for help
  • Lack of healthcare, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
  • Cultural and religious beliefs, such as the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma
  • Exposure to others who have died by suicide (in real life or via the media and Internet)

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