13 Reasons Why You Should Be Concerned Your Child May Attempt Suicide
Child Psychologists Talk The Reality of Suicide
Netflix has announced a second season for “13 Reasons Why.”
But many experts are concerned the portrayal of the lead character Hannah’s death may not only be difficult to watch for young people, but it may also glorify suicide.
Alaina Everitt, a child psychologist at Cook Children’s, was first introduced to the book “13 Reasons Why,” 10 years ago through her mom, a middle school librarian. At that time the book was being pulled because it was “sensationalizing” suicide.
“Even though it was written 10 years ago, the types of bullying portrayed in the story remain relatable to the kids I see today, the only difference being the technology behind it. What sets this story apart from others is that it emphasizes the bystander. The effects of bullying trickle down from those who allow it to happen, who see it, maybe even disapprove, but do nothing,” Everitt said. “It’s easy to be a bystander, to keep things to yourself and not risk your own reputation. But just because they don’t throw a punch or post a pic, they are not innocent. The bystander is one of the 13 reasons.”
Local school districts have sent communication to parents to make them aware of the series. Some have encouraged an open dialogue with their child regarding the subject matter depicted in the series and book.
Lisa Elliott, a licensed psychologist and manager of Cook Children’s Behavioral Health in Denton, says children may watch the series and threaten suicide in an attempt to get attention.
“But it doesn’t matter,” Elliott said. “You must take the threat very seriously. If a child is talking about suicide, get help immediately. It’s critical not to ignore this cry for help regardless of their reasons.”
With the show so prevalent in the news, it may present parents the opportunity to talk to their kids about an extremely uncomfortable topic.
“Use it as an opportunity to discuss their possible feelings and be a listening ear and support them,” said Joy Crabtree, a licensed psychologist and clinic manager for Southlake and Northeast Clinic. “Additionally, parents can ask their child if they have ever had any extreme feelings of sadness or thoughts about hurting themselves. If current feelings about wanting to hurt themselves are acknowledged, parents should let their therapist or psychologist know right away. If they do not have a therapist or psychologist, or they are not available, they should be taken to a local mental health facility or hospital emergency room for an evaluation.”
Elliott says teens with chronic illness, such as depression, are no different than any other child and generally want to be treated just like any other kid. But they should receive professional help and be assessed for anxiety and depression.
“Parents should watch for any change in mood like sadness, depression, hopelessness, irritability, anger and hostility,” Elliott said. “You may see more tearfulness and changes in activity level. Watch for more withdrawal from friends and family, change in friends and loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.”
Elliott says warning signs of teen suicide include:
- Increased use of alcohol/drugs
- Preoccupied with death (writing, drawings)
- Talking about feelings of hopelessness
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Telling loved ones goodbye
- Decline in performance
- Giving prized possessions away
- Isolating and withdrawing
- Acting highly anxious or agitated
- Acting reckless and taking risks
- Changes in sleeping and/or eating
- Dramatic changes in personality and/or appearance
If you feel your child needs help, please click here to find a Cook Children's Behavioral Health location near you.
Cook Children's Behavioral Health Center
Growing up in today's world is hard and many children or teens may go through life experiences that cause them to feel anxious, depressed or even suicidal. As a parent or a caregiver, it can be hard to know when to ask for help. The Behavioral Health Center brings all services together in an expanded space that will provide a talented, dedicated team of caregivers, physicians and professionals with the facilities, resources, tools and programs they need to ensure that these most vulnerable children receive the high quality treatment they need and deserve. Click here to learn more about an appointment or referral.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24 hours everyday. Learn more at at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.