A new Netflix series called “13 Reasons Why” is bringing issues of suicide and mental illness — subjects which are still taboo, especially in children and adolescents — to the forefront of conversations everywhere. The 13 episodes in season one tell the story of 17-year-old Hannah, who takes her own life and leaves behind a suicide note in the form of 13 cassette tapes.
Dr. Elizabeth Ucheoma-Cofield, a psychiatrist and the medical director for the adolescent unit at Medical City Green Oaks Hospital, says the show provides opportunities for parents, teachers, mental health providers and other adults to begin discussions involving depression, suicide and a variety of other topics that are pertinent to teens, including sexual assault and cyberbullying.
As both a parent and an adolescent psychiatrist, Dr. Ucheoma-Cofield feels there are five pivotal points highlighted by “13 Reasons Why.”
- Platform for discussion
- Asking for help/paying attention
- Perception on invincibility
- Attention seeking through suicide
- Need to process
If you’d like to talk to your kids about the subjects highlighted in “13 Reasons Why” but aren’t sure where to begin, here are some resources:
- The JED Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to prevent suicide in teens and young adults, has developed a series of talking points for children and adults.
- The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide offers helpful information on how to know if suicide is a risk for your family.
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) provides free and confidential resources and support for people of all ages in distress or crisis.
Read Dr. Ucheoma-Cofield’s full blog on LifeSigns.