For National Mental Health Week, we reached out to Kids Help Phone to develop some recommendations on how to talk about some of the serious subjects covered on the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why if they’re brought up in a unit meeting or other times. Lots of teens and adults are watching and talking about the series – which dives into serious but very real subjects such as suicide, bullying and sexual assault. Plenty of concern has been raised by mental health experts about the show’s graphic portrayals and for failing to show the very real supports that exist for teens who are struggling.
Young people watching the show may be left with many questions or concerns. When it comes to mental health, we believe there should always be a message of hope and optimism. Here’s what Kids Help Phone had to say:
Talk about suicide with openness and honesty.
- Talking about suicide doesn’t increase the risk of someone harming themselves.
- Let them know they aren’t alone.
- Don’t judge or make promises you can’t keep. Try to listen to what they have to say.
- If you’re worried that a young person will take imminent action to harm themselves, it’s an emergency. Call 9-1-1 and stay with the young person.
- The series is a fictional drama with many unrealistic elements.
- Suicide is complicated and most people who attempt suicide don’t actually want to die.
- Most people reach out or accept help offered to them when faced with issues such as bullying, sexual assault or the death of someone close to them.
Encourage healthy strategies.
- Reassure them that we all have different levels of mental health at different periods of time. They are not alone.
- Encourage them to talk with those they trust when they are struggling – and to be available to listen and support those they care about in return.
- Model and talk about healthy coping strategies for stress, anxiety and worry such as those contained in our Mighty Minds Challenge.
- Remind them of the resources available when some extra help or support is needed:
- Mighty Minds Mental Health Resources
- Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868; free, anonymous, confidential, and available 24/7/365)
- Resources Around Me – Kids Help Phone
- Psychology Foundation of Canada
Related Girl Guide programming that’s available year round for all ages:
- Mighty Minds Challenge: mental health, resiliency and stigma
- Say No to Violence Challenge: gender-based violence, consent and healthy relationships