13 Reasons Why – first a book, then a Netflix series, tells the story of Hannah Baker, a high school student who dies by suicide. But before she carries it out, she creates old-school cassette tapes – each one telling the story of a particular person who hurt her which add up to the 13 reasons why she decided to die. They’re various injuries, small and large, including her rape by a classmate.
In April of this year, the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) put out a statement warning about the risk factors of such a show. The NASP says that research shows exposure to another person's suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of death, can be one of the many risk factors that young people struggling with mental health conditions cite as a reason they contemplate or attempt suicide.
The statistics on teen suicide are alarming:
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in people under 34 in North Carolina. That’s up compared to twenty years ago when suicide sat at number three under unintentional injury and homicide.
New data from the National Institute for Health Statistics shows suicide among girls between the ages of 15 and 19 hit a 40-year high in 2015 – the last year for which data is available. And CNN reports the suicide rate for those girls doubled between 2007 and 2015. For male teenagers, the suicide rate increased by 31%.
On this edition of CoastLine, we find out why 75% of kids who are suicidal never receive any mental health care and why young people in rural areas are twice as likely to die by suicide as youth in urban or suburban areas. We also explore how this community is dealing with the series – and why at least some local teachers decided to show it in class.
Dr. Kate Nooner, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is also a practicing Clinical Psychologist specializing in child and adolescent mental health at the Chrysalis Center for Counseling in Wilmington.
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