Mental Health Awareness Month
As we approach the month of May, which is the official Mental Health Awareness Month, we find ourselves talking more openly about mental illness. Doctors, neurosurgeons, and professionals from all over the globe are constantly testing, researching and trying to understand what creates mood disorders, chemical imbalances , and personality disorders. While science is trying to break through the complexities of the brain, we are here doing everything we can to bring the suffering to light. Every year, we continue a movement toward destigmatizing and decriminalizing those who suffer from mental illness. After all, one in four people will suffer from a mental disorder in their lifetime and one in seventeen will develop a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, bi-polar and oftentimes, co-occurring disorders. We have come a long way, but still have a long way to go. More and more people are talking about mental illness. Our goal is to bring it to the attention of Washington’s lawmakers so just maybe people that suffer from mental illness will have access to health insurance and not left behind. And perhaps people will become open minded about treatment and discussing counseling options with their loved ones. It's not such a taboo topic anymore as nowadays it is more common and encouraging to seek professional help.
Recently, Netflix released "13 Reasons Why" which is about a high school student named Hannah Baker and the aftermath of her suicide. Hannah records a series of cassette tapes explaining the reasons why she took her own life and how she was bullied, ignored and assaulted. The tapes she left behind were sent to her former classmate Clay Jensen, whom she had a crush on and admired, although it turns out, he ends up taking blame for her death. Here are a few reasons we believe this show gives off the wrong message about suicide. The show fails to acknowledge that 90% of people who commit suicide suffer from mental illness. According to a response of the show from USA TODAY, "While external circumstances such as bullying can contribute to suicide, the show misses the opportunity to discuss the underlying cause.” USA TODAY goes on to say, "the show romanticizes the aftermath of suicide, it also blames everyone in Hannah's life."
We know that constant bullying and abuse can cause severe damage to a child's psyche and it can affect their learning and development in school, especially when they are scared and feel like they have no one to talk to. This is why parents and advocates need to communicate with their children and talk about what is going on in their lives. By bringing in professional help and making sure their child is seeing a therapist regularly, they will have a greater chance of combatting their underlying depression and insecurities before they fester and worsen. However, the show gives off the idea that there is a liability when someone commits suicide and puts blame on their friends and families. This is not something we want to promote to our children, especially depressed and already suicidal teenagers.
The idea that a teenager could simply be kind and save a life is not how suicide works. Professional help for the mentally ill is real help. Hopefully, this show will be a topic of concern for many people who see that this message is preventing teens from getting the professional help they need.
Perhaps USA TODAY's opinion is right about the producers wanting to get shock value out of suicide. After all, they are making money and no one wants to tune into something boring. We need to continue to talk to our children and explain to them that not every person's situation is alike and there will be obstacles in life. But none are more or no less important and they can always be addressed with a professional to help find a solution.