I Only Need 1 Reason
18 August 2017
I Only Need 1 Reason … not 13! Earlier this year I spent a few nights watching a Netflix production, ‘13 Reasons Why’ (I will not admit to binge TV, but maybe I obsessed for a number of extended sessions)! It came after some Year 11 students were talking about it and a staff member encouraged me to really take the program seriously. For those of you who haven’t heard about this program, it is a dramatisation of a girl who “walks the viewing audience through the lead-up to her own suicide”. It’s confronting and not recommended viewing for younger students (even more fragile senior students), but it’s clearly set in an adolescent context and deals with social media pressures, misconceptions, judgements and then the personal feelings of this teenager being ostracised and depressed, and making a decision to end her life. As a parent and teacher, the impact of this show was enormous. It heightened my desire to be sure that I’m connected to my kids, aware of the things that may be impacting them on a very deep level and not just taking the “I’m fine” response as a final answer. We’re often oblivious to how intensely kids feel things from their peers and even from us. Of course with my teacher hat on, I’m less inclined to pass off comments or trivial interactions just in case. Because in the end, we should only need one reason to check in with our own kids, let alone our high school students, about their wellbeing and their feelings about how their life is going – not thirteen! Early signs of depression or withdrawal are significant. Nothing should be taken lightly, I believe.
For some more information, the website https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources/school-safety-and-crisis/preventing-youth-suicide/13-reasons-why-netflix-series-considerations-for-educators points out a couple of really great things: Make sure we are all aware of suicide risk warning signs. Always take warning signs seriously, and never promise to keep them secret. Common signs include (see webpage):
• Suicide threats - which can be verbal or written, and they are often found in online postings; • Giving away prized possessions; • Preoccupation with death in conversation, writing, drawing, and social media; • Changes in behaviour, appearance/hygiene, thoughts, and/or feelings. This can include someone who is typically sad who suddenly becomes extremely happy; • Emotional distress. Students who feel suicidal are not likely to seek help directly; however, we can recognise the warning signs and take immediate action to keep our kids safe.
When a child gives signs that they may be considering suicide, take the following actions (see more online): • Remain calm, be nonjudgmental, and listen; • Strive to understand the intolerable emotional pain that has resulted in suicidal thoughts; • Focus on your concern for their wellbeing and avoid being accusatory; • Reassure the child that there is help and they will not feel like this forever; and • Get help.
Once a child is considered at risk, we should work to build these factors in and around them (more online):
• Family support and cohesion, including good communication; • Peer support and close social networks; • School and community connectedness; • Cultural/religious beliefs that discourage suicide and promote healthy living; and • Adaptive coping and problem-solving skills, including conflict resolution;
This is one of those things that we shouldn’t ignore, think happens to someone else or this would never be my kids. We have a responsibility to be in this together.
Head of Secondary