SPEAKING OF SUICIDE: What Parents Need to Know

Published Friday, June 15, 2018

With the start of the second season of the controversial Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” upon us, plus the recent deaths by suicide of fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, the topic of suicide is sadly top of mind.

When “13 Reasons Why” launched last year, many feared that the show, which focuses on a teen’s suicide, would trigger thoughts of suicide in teens who might not otherwise consider such an option. Several families have blamed the show for the deaths of their children, claiming it acted as a trigger for their depressed teens. If you’re a parent and know your child is watching “13 Reasons Why,” WJCS therapists recommend that you sit with him or her during the show. Netflix has, in fact, added a video warning that plays before every episode, cautioning viewers that the subject matter is sensitive and that young viewers should turn to a trusted adult to air their concerns. (https://youtu.be/WU-iQ9mA31Y).

 “13 Reasons Why” addresses many of the factors that can lead to despair: social isolation, bullying, sexual assault, voyeurism, substance abuse, and depression. Adults need to be aware that watching the show may trigger traumatic memories or feelings in young people, especially those who have been bullied, abused and have had other adverse experiences. It also provides a vehicle for discussion and the promotion of coping and problem-solving skills. Even those parents whose teens do not watch “13 Reasons Why” need to be prepared to discuss the high-profile deaths by suicide which are in the news and be alert to risk factors. Rates of suicide have increased nearly 30 percent in the U.S. since 1999, according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Being prepared with information and resources to help guide youth in conversation and any necessary follow-up steps is essential. Having an adult with whom to share one’s feelings of despair, isolation, rage, pain, substance abuse problems, and suicidal thoughts can help a youth feel less alone and scared and enable him or her to face troubling emotions and overcome his or her challenges.

There are many resources available to help parents in discussion and in an emergency situation.


American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: https://afsp.org/about-suicide/

Talking points for discussing “13 Reasons Why”-- http://www.jedfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/13RW-Talking-Points-JED-SAVE-Netflix.pdf

National Institute for Mental Health— https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/index.shtml

Anxiety and Depression in America-- https://adaa.org/

The Trevor Project--LGBTQ youth suicide prevention https://www.thetrevorproject.org/get-help-now/#sm.0001810pck5ceemoxla2kejfhkfp0

Youth Mental Health First Aid Trainings—Trainings offered by WJCS to parents, schools, and youth-serving agencies and community groups: http://www.wjcs.com/youth-mental-health-first-aid-training/

In an Emergency:

Crisis Text Hotline--Text REASON to 741741 http://www.crisistextline.org

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline--DIAL: 1-800-273-TALK http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Call 911

Go to the nearest Emergency Room

For additional resources: https://13reasonswhy.info/

The following can be shared with youth and young adults.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide:

  • Tell a trusted adult. If they do not help, tell another trusted adult. Keep telling adults until someone helps you.
  • Go to the nearest hospital emergency room
  • Call 9-1-1

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual abuse or trauma:

  • Tell a trusted adult. If they do not help, tell another trusted adult. Keep telling adults until someone helps you.
  • Get help. Find a therapist who specializes in trauma. Healing is possible.
  • Report the abuse or trauma to your state’s Department of Children’s Services and/or to the police.
  • Contact the WJCS Trager Lemp Center: Treating Trauma & Promoting Resilience for further information (http://www.wjcs.com/trauma/). Write [email protected] or calling (914) 949-7699 x 2475.

If you or someone you know has experienced bullying:

  • Tell a trusted adult. If they do not help, tell another trusted adult. Keep telling adults until someone helps you. Stopbullying.gov (https://www.stopbullying.gov) provides resources, tips, trainings, and much more to prevent and respond to bullying and cyberbullying.


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