Psychology Melbourne Blog

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How to use 13 Reasons Why to start a conversation with your kids about suicide

By Daniel Quin,

how to use 13 reasons why to start a conversation with your kids about suicide

Self-harm has become an increasing issue amongst young Australians. The 2015 Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey found that approximately one in ten young Australians had self-harmed at some point in their lives. Individuals often engage in self-harm for several reasons, with 57% using it to manage painful feelings, 25% to punish themselves, 6% to communicate with others and 58% citing other reasons. The most common forms of self-harm include cutting, scratching, burning, deliberately hitting the body, punching, slapping and biting.

Psychologist Daniel Quin suggests some signs or risk factors for suicide include:

  • Talking about feeling helpless
  • Being socially isolated
  • A recent significant loss, including suicide of a friend or family member
  • Risk taking behaviour. E.g., use of drugs and alcohol
  • Having a mental illness

Concerns around Youth Mental Health and Suicidal Ideation have become a prominent topic this year due to the controversial Netflix Tv series “13 Reasons Why”. Many reports of young people feeling vulnerable after watching the show, with some reported cases of “copycat” suicides.

You may not always be able to monitor or prevent your children from watching certain TV shows. But you can certainly try and understand their feelings and thoughts around suicide by discussing the show with them. Some parents have found watching the series with their child or simply discussing the series to be educational.

You can use "13 Reasons Why" to talk to your children about suicide and help them cope by:

  • Asking them what they think about the characters actions
  • Educating them to identify signs and symptoms of friends or classmates who may be undergoing depression or contemplating suicide
  • Discussing places young people can seek help (i.e. Headspace etc.)
  • Reminding them it’s okay for them to tell you what’s going on in their lives, because you will be able to help them out
  • Chatting about the importance of mental health
  • Encouraging them to explore coping mechanisms and self-care activities

Talking about suicide may be uncomfortable or may seem like you are encouraging your children to think about suicide. However, it is important to equip your children with the resources through education.

If you believe a young person is thinking about taking their life it is important to provide options. It is helpful to let the young person know you are concerned about them, in a calm and non-judgmental way. Encourage them to see seek professional help, such as making an appointment to see a GP and a psychologist. Other services such as HeadSpace and LifeLine can also provide support. Finally, if you believe a young person in your care is unsafe you should call 000.

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About the author, Daniel Quin

Dr. Daniel Quinn is a registered psychologist with a doctorate in educational psychology. Daniel is also a parent and a registered teacher and uses these perspectives to develop rapport and collaborative relationships with his clients. Find out more about Dr. Daniel Quinn.