A new Netflix series which portrays sexual assault, bullying and teenage suicide in a brutal and disturbing manner has got teen mental health experts and parents worried. The series “13 Reasons Why” is an adaptation of Jay Asher’s 2007 young adult novel of the same name. It narrates the events leading up to the suicide of Hannah Baker, a fictional high school student. Before killing herself, she records 13 audio tapes and leaves them behind for specific people who, according to Baker, led her to take the extreme step.
The controversial show has faced a fair share of favorable reviews as well as backlash since it first aired on March 31, 2017. Some mental health professionals are concerned that the show projects teen suicide and mental health issues in an irresponsible manner, increasing the risk for youngsters and adolescents who are harboring suicidal thoughts. The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has released a statement regarding the series mentioning that for youth struggling with mental health conditions, being exposed to another person’s suicide or to explicit stories of death is a risk factor in contemplating or attempting suicide. Others are of the view that the show presents an opportunity to talk to youngsters about the risk of suicide and increase their awareness on noticing depressive tendencies or suicidal thoughts among their peer group.
The makers of the series envisioned that it could be a catalyst to initiate discussion regarding suicide and mental health which would benefit youngsters. Although the series has been very well received by teenagers and critics, mental health professionals are of the opinion that it might result in more harm than benefits due to its graphic scenes and the way suicide has been glamorized. Though there are have been media reports where teen suicide survivors have hailed the series as being able to depict the trauma or feelings of someone on the edge very well.
Exposure to suicide may increase the risk of “suicide contagion”
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), suicide contagion is the exposure to suicide or suicidal behavior within a family or peer group, or through media reporting of suicide, which may result in an increase in suicidal behaviors. This risk of suicide contagion and “copycat behavior” promoted by the series is a leading cause of concern for mental health experts. Past research shows that chances of suicide increase following a classmate’s suicide, or a real or fictional suicide which has been publicized in the media. The study notes that adolescents are at a high risk of committing suicide due to this contagion effect.
A 2016 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that suicide is a growing concern among adolescents and young adults. Although overall age-adjusted suicide rates increased by 24 percent between 1999 and 2014, girls aged between 10 and 14 years registered a staggering 200 percent increase in suicide rates during the period. Mental health experts are concerned that young girls, especially those who are vulnerable, may identify themselves with Baker. They worry that the way in which suicide has been depicted in the series trivializes the reality and seriousness of mental health issues.
Families and schools should engage in meaningful conversations with youngsters regarding mental health
The NASP statement recommends that vulnerable youth, especially those who harbor suicidal thoughts, should not watch this series. It adds that although many youngsters have the ability to distinguish between a TV show and reality, it is critical to engage in meaningful conversations with them about the series.
Although a significantly higher number of male adolescents die as a result of suicide than females, cases of attempted suicide have a higher prevalence among females. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents aged between 15 and 19 years as observed in one of the reports from the American Academy of Pediatrics. It is vital to disseminate correct information regarding mental health issues, urge the youth to discuss their concerns with families, counselors and school representatives, and encourage them to seek treatment.
It is important to look for warning signals of mental health issues among adolescents and young adults before things get out of hand. If you know someone who is suffering from any mental health problems or showing signs of distress or suicidal tendencies, contact Sovereign Health, a leading health care provider in the U.S. for information on the best suicidal ideation disorder treatment centers California. Call us on our 24/7 helpline number 866-973-7164 or chat online with our specialists to get advice on the finest suicidal ideation disorder treatment centers Los Angeles.