We’ve already discussed some of the most common issues teens deal with in real life that are portrayed in 13 Reasons Why season 2. During the second half of the season, there’s a lot of discussion about the practical role schools play in suicide prevention. Is it the school’s responsibility to prevent suicide? Does talking about suicide at school increase risk for a student to die by suicide? Can bullying that takes place at school increase a teen’s risk of suicide?
Keep reading for answers to these questions and how to talk with your teen about the important themes from episodes 9, 10 and 11.
Episodes 9, 10 & 11
Theme: School Responsibility
One of the biggest themes from these three episodes is deciding what the school’s responsibility is to its students. Liberty High School communications teacher Mrs. Bradley takes the stand during episode 9 and school counselor Mr. Porter testifies during episode 10. Both Mr. Porter and Mrs. Bradley had a lack of training and didn’t know how to help or what to do when Hannah expressed suicidal thoughts. While it is not necessarily Mr. Porter’s or Mrs. Bradley’s fault that Hannah died by suicide, the school and its staff do have a role to play in preventing suicide by creating a place of connection, support and hope.
- Discussion Tip: Ask your teen about the culture at their school. Do they feel supported? Do they know who they could turn to for help if they were struggling with thoughts of suicide? Then, ask the school’s administrators what they are doing on campus to prevent suicide. If the administration is not sure where to start, refer them to Teen Lifeline. We have several free programs, from adding our hotline number to the back of school IDs to providing training for teachers and staff members, that can be implemented at your school.
During these episodes, Clay is in trouble with the school for continuing to talk about suicide and Hannah’s death by suicide. The principal explains the reasoning for the ban on talking about suicide is that contagion is real – meaning one suicide can lead to more suicides. Clay responds by asking if it’s not more dangerous to stay silent. Both the principal and Clay are correct. Suicide does have an element of contagion. But, contagion or suicide clusters are seen most frequently in places where no one talks about it. Keeping children silent and refusing to allow them to talk about suicide or what they’re feeling may actually increase their risk of suicide.
- Discussion Tip: Talk about suicide. If you are concerned your child might be considering self-harm or suicide, try using one of these questions to start the conversation:
- Are you feeling suicidal?
- Do you feel like hurting yourself?
- I’ve noticed you’ve been talking about wanting to be dead. Have you been having thoughts about trying to kill yourself?
- What are some of the reasons you see suicide or self-harm as an option?
- It seems like you are really hurting and upset by this. How can I help you?
During episode 10, a new character named Sarah is a witness in the trial against the school. Sarah knew Hannah at a previous school and testifies that Hannah and three other girls bullied her so badly she ended up changing schools to get away from them. It is not uncommon for teens to be both a victim of bullying and a bully themselves. We call this a bully-victim. Most teens involved in bullying situations fit in one of three categories, bully, victim or bully-victim.
Suicide is complicated and is never caused by just one thing. However, bullying can be one of many factors that contribute to thoughts of suicide. Statistically, when we look at risk for suicide, bully-victims are at a higher risk than victims who have never bullied others. Surprisingly, bullies are also at a higher risk for suicide than victims.
- Discussion Tip: Talk to your kids about the difference between bullying and conflict. We can have arguments and disagree with someone without bullying them. Bullying is when someone tries to take power over or intimidate another person. Ask if your child has ever felt bullied by someone else and how they handled the situation. Ask if your child has ever bullied anyone. Brainstorm alternatives to bullying and ways to disagree without bullying.
To learn more about episodes 9, 10 and 11, watch our Facebook Live video by Teen Lifeline Clinical Director Nikki Kontz at Facebook.com/TeenLifeline/videos.
For answers to questions that have not yet been addressed in our series of Facebook Live videos and blogs about 13 Reasons Why season 2, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If your teen is currently struggling, Teen Lifeline is always here to listen and to help. Your teen can call or text 602-248-8336 to talk to a trained teen counselor.
If you’re a parent concerned about your son or daughter that is a teen, we are here for you, too! Visit our help page here.
Teachers, if you are worried about a student, we have some vital tips and helpful information so you know your next steps!