13 Reasons and why we should talk about suicide

A new Netflix show, 13 Reasons Why, has been getting a lot of attention lately. Released just over a month ago, the show features the story of a teen girl who has completed suicide.

After her death, a school friend receives seven double-sided tapes containing 13 reasons for ending her life. It has been well received by audiences and has sparked controversy due to the graphic nature of some of its content and a fear it may glorify suicide. In response, Netflix has increased warnings around the show and some school boards have sent letters home to parents advising supervision for kids watching the show.

I haven’t yet had the chance to watch the show, but I do feel the conversation it is generating is a positive one. Suicide is tragic and preventable. It should not be glorified and yet is not a topic to confine to the shadows.

The vast majority of completed suicides occur as the result of untreated or inadequately managed mental illness. Suicide may be an impulsive decision borne from a manic episode or substance abuse, or a long-planned act resulting from the chronic hopelessness of severe depression.

If we aren’t aware of a person’s mental health struggles, it becomes very difficult to help them in a crisis – and this is one important reason for bringing these topics into mainstream conversation.

When we talk openly about mental illness, more people feel comfortable speaking about their symptoms with family and health care professionals. Getting appropriate help in a timely way is how we prevent suicide.

Teen suicide has rightly been in the spotlight in recent years with several high profile cases in Canadian indigenous communities. It is important we thoroughly investigate the socio-economic and healthcare realities in all communities to ensure appropriate resources are in place for support and prevention.

Interestingly, the group at highest risk for suicide in Canada is middle-aged men. Though women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are much more likely to complete it. In our society, men have traditionally been discouraged from talking openly about feelings or perceived weakness. Sadly, the stigma surrounding mental illness keeps many men from reaching out for help.

Most people who eventually attempt suicide will talk about their intentions before taking any action. If a loved one opens up to you about struggles with mental health issues, don’t be afraid to discuss the subject. Talking about the feelings will not push a person over the edge. Make sure your loved one knows he or she is important to you and that you don’t want to have to say goodbye – and seek professional advice immediately. Help and hope is available.

When it comes to whether or not to let kids watch a particular program, that is of course a decision each family needs to make independently. Parents can research a program before hand, pre-screen, or watch with their kids to ensure they are present to answer questions, address feelings or give context when needed. 









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