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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Notations On Our World (Special Mid-Week Edition): A Profound Advisory on Teen Suicide

This advisory from Santa Margarita Catholic High School To Santa Margarita High School Families  was profound that we wanted to feature for this edition of "Notations On Our World" that we believe is absolutely critical:

"13 Reasons Why" Netflix Series: Information for Parents
Dear Parents,
As you may or may not be aware of, Netflix recently released a series titled 13 Reasons Why. For those of you that have not heard of it, the show revolves around a 17-year-old female and documents the struggles that ultimately lead her to committing suicide. She leaves behind audio recordings for 13 people whom she blames for why she decided to kill herself. Not only does the show graphically depict a suicide death, but it also addresses bullying, rape, drunk driving, slut shaming, and teenage bystanders. Although the show has received critical acclaim, it has raised significant concerns from suicide prevention experts due to the risks of sensationalizing youth suicide. Personally, I have spoken with several of my colleagues and there has been an increase in suicidal ideation and suicide attempts that are linked with students that have watched this show. Because schools play an important role in the prevention of youth suicide, it is important that this information be passed on to you, the parents. 
The Diocese of Orange has recommended that all families review a publication that was released by The National Association of School Psychologist (NASP) which addresses the controversy surrounding the show. Please click here to review this publication. They do not recommend that vulnerable youth watch this series as it may lead impressionable viewers to romanticize the choices made by the characters and/or develop revenge fantasies. Also, the adult characters, which include the child's parents and school counselor, are portrayed in a way that does not inspire a sense of trust or dependability. While many children are able to differentiate between a television show and real life, engaging in a thoughtful conversation about the show is vital. This would provide an opportunity for them to process the issues, consider the consequences of certain choices, reinforce that suicide is not a solution, and reiterate that help is available. 
Unfortunately, students that feel suicidal are not likely to seek help directly, so what can parents do? Recognizing the warning signs is the first step in supporting your child.  These warning signs include direct/indirect threats of suicide (verbal or written), giving away personal possessions, being preoccupied with death, changes in behavior, appearance/hygiene, thoughts, and/or feelings, and emotional distress.  When a child gives signs that they may be considering suicide, the following actions can be taken:
  • If they exhibit any of the warning signs above, don't be afraid to ask if they have thought about suicide or if someone is hurting them. Raising the issue of suicide does not increase the risk or plant the idea. On the contrary, it creates the opportunity to offer help.
  • Ask your child if they think any of their friends or classmates exhibit warning signs. Talk with them about how to seek help for their friend or classmate. Guide them on how to respond when they see or hear any of the warning signs.
  • Listen to your children's comments without judgment. Doing so requires that you fully concentrate, understand, respond, and then remember what is being said. Put your own agenda aside.
  • Provide constant supervision. Do not leave the child alone.
  • Without putting yourself in danger, remove means for self-harm, including any weapons the child might find.
  • Get help from a school-employed or community-based mental health professional if you are concerned for your child's safety or the safety of one of their peers.
Hopefully, providing you, along with the school's faculty and staff, this information will help establish a united front in addressing this significant concern. Below you will find additional resources that you might find beneficial. 
Blake Oldfield
School Psychologist
American Association of Suicidology,
Suicide Awareness Voices of Education,
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention,

Santa Margarita Catholic High School, 22062 Antonio Parkway, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688

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