13 discussion points for whanau, caregivers, or professionals concerned about '13 Reasons Why’

by Liesje Donkin
in News
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’13 Reasons Why’ is a series currently showing on Netflix in New Zealand (and worldwide).  The series is based on the book ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ by Jay Asher and focusses on an adolescent whom suicides and the fallout from this.  The show features a series of tapes where the young person describes the events that she perceives have led her suicide including those people that she believes to have had roles in her decision.   These events include the spreading of rumours about her; relationship breakdowns and isolation; bullying; pressure in intimate relationships; sexual assault; and the perception of failure by the system for helping when help was sought (both by the young person and her mother). 

Regardless of your perception of the show, it important to consider the impact that this show (or others like it) may have on young people that are exposed to it.  As we cannot truly know the effect of something on some-one without talking to them about it, it is important to actively have conversations with young people about their views on these matters and the topics related to it.

Any conversations with a young person (or anyone) about suicide are done so in a frank, open and non-judgemental style. The conversation should be matter-of-fact and in a non-romanticised nature. If they are feeling suicidal or low, empathy and support for them (not for suicide) is really important. Key messages that could be communicated may include the following messages or resources...

1) although in that moment, the world and the future can seem completely overwhelming, difficult times and overwhelming emotions pass and things feel better.  Here are some skills to help manage high levels of distress until they pass 

2) suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Your future can and will be different from how it feels right now.  Click here for some great stories from people that have suicide and how their lives have changed 

3) it's OK to ask for help even though it can seem hard. No-one will think you are weak or will judge you for doing so.  Here s the Ministry of Health’s Page about how and where to get help

4) help is always available in lots of different forms: friends; whanau; phonelines like youth line (0800 736 633 or txt 234) and lifeline (0800 54 33 54); online chat counsellors; therapists; your doctor

5) treatment for depression and anxiety is actually really effective and will help you feel better. It might take a couple of weeks but it will help.  Here is the link to the Mental Health Foundation’s page about depression and it’s treatment. It has some test on there that you can use to check out how you are doing or you can do some mindfulness to help quieten your mind.  Why not check out some strategies here 

6) although it may feel like others would be happier if you weren't around, suicide shifts the pain from that person who is feeling it, onto their loved ones and friends. It can also increase their chances of suiciding too.  If you’re worried about someone of think they seem a little disconnected, why not start a conversation with them about how they are feeling? Lifeline has some tips here that can help 

7) hard times make you stronger and more resilient. It's not how many times you get knocked down that matter, but how many you can get up.  Something that can help with this is developing problem-solving skills.  Check out the link here for some skills that can help 

8) you matter to someone.  Even if you feel more alone than ever right now, you mean something to someone.  It could be someone online or someone in your real world.  Whaiora Online is a great online tool for Maori which helps with connecting with others, building a sense of community, and helps with skills like goal-setting.

9) Many people who have attempted suicide and survived are hugely relieved to be alive.   Here’s a site written by survivors that gives an honest account of their experience surviving suicide 

10) the best revenge is to be more successful and happier than that person who hurt you.  Here’s some guidelines to help manage online bullying 

11) although those around you might seem not to understand, they are willing to listen a learn. Sometimes it takes a couple of goes in a couple of different ways for them to get it.  If you feel like you can’t connect with them. Why not try Aunty Dee (https://www.auntydee.co.nz/) it’s a free service to help you work through your problems. Or checkout this video about what to watch out for if you are concerned about someone 

12) the human body and spirit is remarkably resilient and can heal for many things if it is given time. Here’s a great guide (although long) for nurturing resilience and healing

13) hope can be found in the strangest of places. You just have to begin to look for it.  Here is a wallet card from Le Va that can be used to guide conversations 

Further resources can be found here;

https://www.jedfoundation.org/13-reasons-jed-point-view/ - a guide to help people consider whether or not to watch the show

https://www.jedfoundation.org/13-reasons-why-talking-points/ - a discussion guide for parents, caregivers, whanau, teachers and counsellors about the show

- Dr Liesje Donkin, Clinical Advisor for Towards Wellbeing