Experts Urge a Healthy Discussion About '13 Reasons Why'

One teenager. A suicide. Thirteen reasons why. This is the narrative of the recent Netflix TV series that prompted experts to put together a mental health discussion led by Baptist Health South Florida.

The teen drama, based on the 2007 novel by Jay Asher, “Thirteen Reasons Why,” tells the story of Hanna, a high school student who committed suicide and left 13 tapes addressed to the 13 people that influenced her decision to take her own life.

The series quickly caught the attention of teachers, schools administrators and counselors nationwide, and also has opened an important dialog between parents and their adolescent children.

Because the drama brings up serious problems that could potentially affect children daily, including suicide, sexual assault and bullying, it is important that parents be aware of the impact that the TV show may have on their teenagers.

(Video: The Baptist Health South Florida News Team hears from experts about the issues raised by “13 Reasons Why.” Video by Alcyene Almeida Rodrigues.)

Frank Zenere, school psychologist and chairman of the Crisis Management Program for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, encourages parents to “please watch it with your adolescent, open that opportunity for dialog, discuss what the concerns are, and more importantly, discuss how it’s preventable and where help can be located.”

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among children and young adults between the ages of 10 to 24, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But Mr. Zenere clarifies that bullying alone does not lead to suicide. It is one of the risk factors in suicidal behavior. “However, 90 percent of all individuals that take their lives have either a psychiatric illness or substance abuse disorder as a foundation,” he explains.“Then other things on top of that, perhaps bullying, a loss of an important relationship and other issues can pile up and cause a lot of pain and suffering.”

Listening to your kids is vital, says Elizabeth Skgoldal, director of Care and Counseling Services for Baptist Health South Florida.

“Sometimes parents don’t allow kids to talk. They shut them down and they don’t even mean to,” said Ms. Skgoldal. “You’ve got to let your kids talk. The best thing you can do as a parent is to be involved with your kids.”

According to Nicole Rodriguez, a licensed mental health therapist for Care and Counseling Services at Baptist Health South Florida, if you have a child that may be struggling with any kind of social pressure, it is important to let them know that they are loved unconditionally. Also, let them know that they are not being judged by you, and there is hope for any situation they may be experiencing, Ms. Rodriguez says.

It is also important to emphasize to them that “there is help out there, they can move past whatever it is that they are going through and life can get better,” Ms. Rodriguez adds.

The CDC provides a list of suicide risk factors that can help identify somebody who may need help:

  • History of previous suicide attempts
  • Family history of suicide
  • History of depression or other mental illness
  • History of alcohol or drug abuse
  • Stressful life event or loss (e.g., job, financial, relationship)
  • Easy access to lethal methods
  • History of interpersonal violence
  • Stigma associated with mental illness and help-seeking

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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