"13 Reasons Why" We Need to Listen

The controversial show "13 Reasons Why" has everyone talking about teens and suicide. The series portrays a high school teen, Hannah, who takes her own life after experiencing a downfall of devastating events with 13 individuals. Hannah tells her story from her point of view, about all the people that could have saved her and moments that were most significant. The show demonstrates the importance of empathy, understanding, communication and listening. Had the events in Hannah's life been different, had someone reached out to her, told her how much she was loved and simply listened, she may still be alive.

Although, many clinicians would agree that teens who watch this show may try to mimic Hannah's tragic end; many would also agree that this show may help teens talk about suicide and hopefully adults can learn to listen. The reality is the more we talk about suicide the less it happens.  

Here are just some, 13 to be exact, ways we can try to prevent teen suicide:

1. Connect and reach out to your teen  

2. Trust that they do want your help

3. Encourage them to believe in themselves 

4. Use positive language when speaking to each other 

5. Spend time together, bond over activities you both enjoy 

6. Do not use physical, emotional or mental violence 

7. Be attentive to your teens emotions

8. Learn not to minimize how they feel 

9. Get to know their friends 

10. Learn if they are being bullied at school 

11. Be a positive role model and model behavior that you would expect from them 

12. Communicate and talk about why suicide is not a way out 

13. Listen to how your teen feels and hear what they need 

We can spend time criticizing a show about teen suicide, or we can learn to use it as a tool to teach teens that suicide is not a solution. It is about time we learn to listen and prevent senseless tragedies. Suicide is never the answer. 

Speak Up About Suicide

Not everyone may know, and it is not a cheery topic to talk about but September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness month. Yes, it is not as popular as National Cheeseburger Day or National Dog Day but just as, if not more important. The topic of suicide is one many people believe is taboo. We think that by not speaking about it, it simply does not happen. This is false. 

By speaking and learning about what suicide is and how to prevent it we can pass on tools to help prevent unwanted suicides. Here are some q and a's to help you spread awareness and share the message that everyone's life does matter: 

What is suicide? It is when someone feels as if they have reached their limit. They are past the point of return and want to give up on life. They may feel as if no one cares or pays them any attention. 

What can I do if a friend or family member talks about suicide? Listen. Be understanding and empathetic. Do not try to minimize their emotions or thoughts. Talk about what they think they may gain from suicide. Talk about what they will lose with suicide. Talk about the love and joy they do bring to the world. Make sure you do make them aware that their is help and things can get better. 

What if they have a suicide plan? A suicide plan and intent to act is very dangerous. This is a direct threat and should be treated as such. Do not hesitate to take your loved one to an emergency room or call 911. 

What if talking does not help? Talk about gaining a second opinion and seeking professional help. If the person is not willing to gain help, you also have the option of taking them to the nearest emergency room or calling 911. 

Can therapy help someone who is suicidal? Yes! The therapy has to be intensive and positive. It can work over time but the difficulty with suicide is that it is an immediate danger. The sooner it is addressed, the better. 

Now that you can help your loved ones, please share this with others. Spread awareness about suicide prevention by simply, talking about it. Do not be shy, talk about how you feel and what you know. Starting a conversation can help slowly reduce suicide and improve mental health for everyone. 

 

How is humor a sign of depression?

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The tragic death of the beloved Robin Williams has everyone asking "how?" Robin starred in many magnificent movie roles and was well known for his on screen talents. As with any national figure who has passed, you turn on the TV, radio or search through Facebook and everyone is in mourning, trying to collect the pieces. The question remains, how could a famous comedian be depressed to the point of suicide?

This answer begins with our definition or stereotype of depression. If you ask most of us, a depressed person is described as someone who exhibits the following: shyness, loss of interest, speaks minimally, isolates, sadness, tears, anger, poor appearance, has trouble eating or sleeping, does not smile or even laugh. Even though the above is true for most depressed clients, it is only a generalization. Depression can be masked or hidden if we really try to not make it apparent. This hidden depression is extremely dangerous since family, friends and loved ones are unaware of possible underlying symptoms. 

Someone who is depressed does not necessarily have to be honest about it and may use humor to cover a very sad truth. Humor and laughter are emotions quite opposite from sadness or anger which are typically associated with depression. For Robin Williams laughter was his way of coping with his true loneliness and despair. Some depressed clients, believe facing true and uncomfortable emotions is too frightening and they would rather just avoid any sorrow. Unfortunately, Robin used humor as his coping skill and all too well. 

As grief stricken fans, now all we can do is learn, hope and become more aware of depression symptoms. Depression can lead to suicide and depression does not always fit a stereotype. Do not be fooled by those around you who may seem to have it all, many people hide their true emotions for their own self protection. Being vulnerable and learning to face our demons without humor can be a true feat in itself.