13 REASONS WHY HELP FOR PARENTS
With the recent release of 13 Reasons Why, the Netflix series about a teenage girl who takes her own life and leaves behind 13 tapes detailing how her peers’ actions led to her decision, we have seen a rise in suicide related conversations, questions, and concerns from parents and adults on how best to respond.
Being the parent of a teenager is a difficult job. The truth is adolescence is a time of great change, and as soon as you think you have a handle on things, they change again. Below are some suggestion for parents to address 13RW.
- Don’t be afraid to bring up the show with your teen, or even watch with them. Don’t assume by virtue of their age, grade, friends etc. that they haven’t seen the show already or talked about it. The entire series is full of teachable moments. Even if they’re not willing to talk about themselves, maybe they’ll open up about friends or situations they’ve seen.
- Make sure they know there are alternatives to suicide and treatments that can help. It’s okay to admit you’re struggling. Encourage your child to share how they feel about the show, how they deal with their problems and ways they can seek help and support.
- Don’t be afraid to talk about suicide. Some people think that by talking about suicide they are planting the idea of suicide in a child’s head. That’s not the case. It’s always a good idea to ask, even though it’s scary, “I’ve noticed you’ve been talking a lot about giving up. Have you been having thoughts of suicide?”
- Let them know that you are a resource for them and can handle whatever they bring your way. Many teens won’t come to their parents for fear of overwhelming them, or getting in trouble. Show them that you can remain calm and not overreact. If they’re not comfortable coming to you, help them identify another helpful adult (and don’t take it personally). If you or your teen need to talk to someone to get help, please call Teen Lifeline.
- Listen, listen, and listen. One of the biggest mistakes the counselor makes in this series is not listening to Hannah, or validating what she is saying. It’s hard to be a teen, and it’s different than when you were a teen. It’s important to keep a close eye on a teen that seems depressed and the lines of communication open. Express your concerns. If your teen confides in you, take their problems seriously.
- Be a presence in your teen’s life. Even if it doesn’t seem like they want to be with you or interact with you, most teens want you to be around. Take opportunities to listen and learn about the things that are important in your child’s life.
- Educate yourself on the warning signs of depression, trauma, and anxiety. Be aware of dramatic changes in your teen. Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic formula for determining if your child is at risk. As a parent, you know your child and what “normal” looks like for them. So focus on dramatic changes in their usual behavior. Consider the nature, intensity, severity and duration of those changes or problems. If things drag on for more than a couple weeks, it could be a sign that your child is at risk. Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to act on them.
- Encourage help seeking behavior in your child. Stress the importance of not keeping a friend’s secret if it relates to suicide. And, don’t forget to take care of yourself, so that you can be a resource for your teen! This also models appropriate coping strategies and self-care!
If You Need Help: If you learn that your child is thinking about suicide, get help immediately. If they are exhibiting signs that they may be in “trouble” get support for them. Your Doctor can refer you to a psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor. If you or your teen need to talk to someone to get help, please call Teen Lifeline, 602-248-8336 or visit www.teenlifeline.org/infoforparents
National Association of School Psychologists:
SAVE and the Jed Foundation have released talking points: