’13 Reasons Why’ we must maintain a dialogue with our kids

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Netflix has just released the much-anticipated second season of its original series “13 Reasons Why.”

Upon its release, the first season had quickly become one of the most-watched series in Netflix history – in just its first month.

For those of you who are not familiar with this series, the topics it covers are disturbing. They include suicide, rape and bullying. The goal behind the show has been to ignite conversations between adults and our youth.

This is a worthy goal, but many behavioral health professionals have expressed criticism and caution in reaction to the show – namely that it did not include the supportive resources that may be needed for those who watch the series.

The consequences of having these situations, emotions and scenarios brought to the foreground in viewers’ minds can have damaging consequences if the right support and dialogue do not accompany them.

All of this is occurring at a time when the statistics are very troubling. This time of the year (April, May and June) is actually when we see the highest rate of death by suicide.

At the same time, teen suicide rates remain at an all-time high. It has been either the No. 2 or No. 3 cause of death for children and teens for each of the last three years. Suicide deaths in individuals 17 years and younger rose 84 percent from 2007 to 2016. And for girls ages 10 to 14, the suicide rate rose a staggering 231 percent in the last decade.

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Michael Diller, PsyD, is a licensed psychologist and director of the WellSpan Employee Assistance Program, which is a confidential and voluntary program offered to employers to help their employees, spouses and dependent family members resolve a variety of challenging personal issues.

We have to do more for our next generation – and we can.

It starts with having an awareness of emotional signs of distress, and then taking simple steps to engage and start a conversation. That conversation, and just taking the time to show that you care and are genuinely interested in the person, can actually save their life.

As teens and young adults watch “13 Reasons Why,” we have an opportunity to engage one another in a conversation about these topics.

Let’s use this TV series as an opportunity to break down the walls of stigma associated with mental health issues.  Netflix, to its credit, has added resources to its website. In addition, the Jed Foundation has provided recommendations, resources and other materials on its website to help facilitate these conversations. Another great resource is 13reasonswhytoolkit.org.

It’s important that we recognize the signs of someone who is at risk of suicide and that we start the caring conversation – before an emotional crisis happens.

It has been said that caring creates resilience, and I firmly believe this to be true.

The time is now. We can do better. We can make a difference.

And it starts with a conversation.

WellSpan Health and WellSpan Philhaven are committed to caring for your needs.  Help is available. WellSpan Philhaven has many resources for those who are struggling with mental health problems or in active crisis. For non-life-threatening emergencies, call WellSpan Philhaven Access at 1-800-932-0359 for information on how to rapidly get help. WellSpan Philhaven also offers walk-in appointments at five locations. You also can call your local crisis intervention hotline in your county. For those who want to learn how to help someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts, WellSpan Philhaven also offers a free suicide prevention training class called QPR.