"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. 

Behind the Trigger

Mass shootings are becoming all too popular and the controversy is spreading about gun access and mental health. As a mental health counselor I do not believe either guns or mental illness are solely to blame. We should be focused on access to mental health and preventative services.

Many outpatient therapy clients are not experiencing a mental health crisis and are not likely to go on a mass shooting spree. However, metal health access to all is crucial for preventative treatment and catching early signs of a mental health crisis. As psychologists we are trained to ask questions, make observations and to help prevent potential tragedies. What can we help prevent if our potential clients do not have access to our services?

The problem arises with access to mental health therapy and insurance companies who monopolize the price of health insurance. Thus making effective practitioners scarce and making treatment ineffective for some clients. These clients who have limited or no access of practitioners are most in danger of experiencing a crisis and not having any help through their downfall.  

As a nation we have to come together and realize that the problem with guns and violence is much more than just the person pulling the trigger. The responsibility begins with access to preventative mental health care. The solution is not simple but we have to find a way to unite and promote affordable mental health care for everyone.