I finished watching 13 Reasons Why yesterday. It was a show I wasn’t planning on watching and while I was watching thought of so many reasons why I shouldn’t continue to watch it. It isn’t one I will be recommending (especially for teenagers) for various reasons including: the dragged out storyline, not enough focus on mental illness, the obscene amount of F words, the graphic scenes of rape and suicide and many perceived while watching, the glorification of suicide. You can have these discussions without watching this show and I feel like do a better job. These are topics that are brought up and not talked about enough that I feel NEED to be talked about with your kids, your friends and your family.
Mental Illness. I was on the last episode last night when one of my friends posted about wanting to end her life. I immediately reached out to her and was able to get her to a safe place. She is not a teenager, so my first thought on this is that we need to not only recognize that suicide affects teenagers, but adults as well. Mental illness affects ONE in FOUR adults in the world and ONE in FIVE American adults. Look around you. Someone you know and love is the one in five. Maybe it is you. It is me. I have generalized anxiety disorder. It is something I am working on being able to manage and it is a daily struggle. It isn’t something I am ashamed of anymore-it is something I can’t control, but there are ways I can lessen it’s effects. Talking about it and not making mental illness taboo is our first step. Having a great support system of friends and counselors is one of the things that helps me. Exercise and eating healthy also helps lessen my anxiety. I was on medication for about a year and after finding one that was working for some time, I soon found it to make me extremely tired all day long. So for right now, I am going without daily medication and starting therapy for anxiety. Wish me luck!
Rape Culture. Rape is an epidemic in our world. In America a woman is raped every TWO minutes. One in five women will be raped in their lifetime and 97 percent of rapists never face incarceration. Most women don’t report when a rape occurs. This show did bring up a good point in their after show episode that I wanted to talk about. One of their experts on there talked about how in sexual assault situations you will fight, flight or freeze. Freeze was something I hadn’t thought of before, but it makes total sense because when I was sexually assaulted by a student teacher in high school, that is what I did. He grabbed me and I was in shock of what just happened and wasn’t able to scream, run or say anything. After I told a friend what had happened and long story short, we found out it was happening to many girls at my school, we were able to identify him (none of us had seen him before in the school), and we went to trial. He was found guilty of lewd acts and then the charges were dropped later because of a technicality that had nothing to do with the actual trial. Looking back what happened after the assault was more damaging than the actual act, so I can see why women and men are afraid to come forward. We need to make safe places for people to come to when these situations happen. The Younique Foundation is an organization for those who have been sexually assaulted you can reach out to.
Consent. No means no, stop means no and yes, but now I changed my mind still means no. I have many friends who were date raped. We really need to talk more about this because it happens SO MUCH. It is RAPE. Say that with me. Date rape is RAPE. It does NOT matter what you are wearing, if you are flirting, if you are on a date, if you invited that person over….it DOES NOT mean they have the right to sexually assault you in ANY way. In the after show a woman brought up a good talking point. You need to clearly ask if it is ok to have sex with your partner-like “Is it ok to have sex with you?” If they say no or don’t say YES, the answer is NO. If they are unconscious or very intoxicated, the answer is NO. If they tell you to stop, even after saying yes, the answer is still NO. Talk to your teenagers about this. Tell them no one has the right to touch their body in any way, especially without their consent. With younger children we need to address this topic as well. They need to know that if anyone is touching their body that it isn’t ok and they need to tell a trusted adult. Our bodies are our own and NO ONE has a right to them. If you have been sexually assaulted you can call 911 or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE. RAINN also has a lot of information on what to do after an assault.
Bullying. Why does it seem to get worse? You would think we could learn to be nice to people. Sadly it happens EVERY day. Talk to your kids about what it looks like and what to do if they see it happening. If they feel unsafe speaking out during the incident, tell them to go to a safe adult and tell them what happened. If they see cyber bullying, they need to report it. We lose too many of our children because of bullying. Sadly adults do it too. Call out bullies of all ages. Don’t stand for it. Reach Out has some great tips on what to do if you or someone you know are being bullied.
Suicide. One thing I learned from the after show is it is important to change our words. Instead of saying committed suicide, say completed suicide. We need to talk about it openly and let our children know that feelings like this are only temporary and it DOES get better. There are so many resources out there to help you and your loved ones if you or they are having suicidal thoughts. Here are some tips for talking to someone who is suicidal.
Be yourself. Let the person know you care, that he/she is not alone. The right words are often unimportant. If you are concerned, your voice and manner will show it.
Listen. Let the suicidal person unload despair, ventilate anger. No matter how negative the conversation seems, the fact that it exists is a positive sign.
Be sympathetic, non-judgmental, patient, calm, accepting. Your friend or family member is doing the right thing by talking about his/her feelings.
Offer hope. Reassure the person that help is available and that the suicidal feelings are temporary. Let the person know that his or her life is important to you.
Take the person seriously. If the person says things like, “I’m so depressed, I can’t go on,” ask the question: “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” You are not putting ideas in their head, you are showing that you are concerned, that you take them seriously, and that it’s OK for them to share their pain with you.
Argue with the suicidal person. Avoid saying things like: “You have so much to live for,” “Your suicide will hurt your family,” or “Look on the bright side.”
Act shocked, lecture on the value of life, or say that suicide is wrong.
Promise confidentiality. Refuse to be sworn to secrecy. A life is at stake and you may need to speak to a mental health professional in order to keep the suicidal person safe. If you promise to keep your discussions secret, you may have to break your word.
Offer ways to fix their problems, or give advice, or make them feel like they have to justify their suicidal feelings. It is not about how bad the problem is, but how badly it’s hurting your friend or loved one.
Blame yourself. You can’t “fix” someone’s depression. Your loved one’s happiness, or lack thereof, is not your responsibility.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, please call the anonymous National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text 741741 and talk to a crisis counselor. You are NEVER alone.