New Show 13 Reasons Why Reinforces Dangerous Teen Suicide Myths

Madelyn Gould, PhD, MD; Pablo Goldberg, MD; Mirjana Domakonda, MD


June 15, 2017

Real-World Resources for Suicide Prevention

Drs Goldberg and Domakonda: What would you tell parents whose teens are asking them to watch the show? Are there any resources you recommend?

Dr Gould: If I had my druthers, no one would be watching the show. That's how harmful I feel it could potentially be. That said, I know realistically teens will watch it, so I would prefer they watch it with parental supervision and guidance. But even that is not a perfect solution. Some teens who are not vulnerable will be able to watch the show and discuss it with their parents, including the issues of bullying, identifying suffering in others, and treating others well. But I am concerned about the children whose parents may not be emotionally available and who may struggle themselves with mental illness or suicidal thoughts.

If parents choose to watch the show with their teens, I recommend that they use the talking points that were developed by the JED Foundation and Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) for guidance on how to address the shows' topics with teens.

Drs Goldberg and Domakonda: What can parents or primary care providers (PCPs) do if they think a teen is suffering?

Dr Gould: When it comes to psychiatric treatment, there is one ubiquitous, overwhelming barrier that spans across age, demographics, and cultural or socioeconomic differences: People want to handle problems on their own and often fail to recognize when they have a problem. Nor do they recognize the severity of their emotions when they are very anxious or depressed. They do not realize that their problem can be treated.

For that reason, it would be very hard for parents or PCPs to force teens into treatment (unless, of course, there are safety concerns). However, I do think it would be immensely helpful if PCPs and parents learned the basics of motivational interviewing so that they could explore what is going on in an impartial way and help the teen recognize that s/he needs help. Either way, they need to stay more engaged and discuss these things with teens to reduce the stigma around seeing a therapist or psychiatrist, if it is necessary.

Dr Gould's Recommended Resources


The Suicide Prevention Resource Center The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Phone/texting
  • Troubled youth and the adults who are worried about them can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK)

  • Distressed youth can text the Crisis Text Line ("START" to 741-741) and immediately be connected to a crisis line via text, which is great for teens who don't want to speak on the phone

Mobile apps

New York Office of Mental Health
  • Provides the "Safety Plan App," which allows users to create a personalized safety plan and call specific individuals when in crisis.

National Center for Telehealth & Technology
  • Their "Virtual Hope Box" app allows users to upload photographs, songs, or media that remind them of positive thoughts and experiences. People can even choose to distract themselves with games, read inspirational quotes, and engage in deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation to reduce stress and anxiety.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Please note that all of these apps should only be used as adjuncts to treatment and should not take the place of a psychiatric evaluation or treatment.


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