By now, we have all heard about the controversial Netflix series, “13 Reasons Why.” The show’s power to reduce stigma and open up healthy conversation about suicide, juxtaposed against its arguably dangerous insensitivity in handling the topic has prompted mixed reactions from parents, educators and suicide prevention advocates. Some mental health professionals have even accused the series of putting young lives at risk by increasing the likelihood of “copycat suicides,” or “suicide contagion.”
The Child and Family Guidance Center (CFGC) aims to help parents discuss all types of mental health issues with their kids in a healthy way, and know where to go for help in times of need. CFGC’s suicide prevention expert and Clinical Director of Northpoint School, Caroline Nersessian, LCSW, is aware that the show “13 Reasons Why” has stirred up conversation about mental health issues, including suicide. To respond, she offers some tips to help parents, teachers, coaches and other who live and work with children to navigate often difficult issues with young people. Nersessian also facilitates CFGC’s suicide prevention trainings for community members. These trainings empower parents, or anyone else over the age of 15, to know how to identify when someone is at risk for suicide, as well as to understand how to connect others with resources that can keep at-risk people safe and in the hands of professionals who can help them heal.
Nersessian’s Tips Include:
Fight Stereotypes and Taboos
CFGC is glad that the show “13 Reasons Why” is fighting taboos about difficult issues like the risks of bullying, assault and suicide. People are finally having productive discussions, including parents and children. The more we talk about these issues, the more they lose their stigma. Talking alone can encourage people ask for help. It can save lives.
Know About Resources
There is no reason to feel alone when it comes to mental health issues. There are websites by suicide prevention professionals that provide assistance 24/7, as well as phone numbers to call any time of day or night. Here are just a few:
National Suicide Prevention Hotline – (800) 273-8255
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention — https://afsp.org
CFGC’s Community Resource Directories — www.childguidance.org/resource..
Talk to Your Kids about Mental Health Issues and Suicide Prevention
Just like talking to kids about sex and drugs, it’s best for children to learn about mental health and suicide prevention from their parents. If parents don’t have the conversation, kids learn about these sensitive issues from other sources – like peers or portrayals in the media. Of course, we know that those sources do not always convey information accurately or responsibly.
Know the Signs
Parents of children with mental health issues can feel overwhelmed and concerned about their children’s risk for self-harm. The key is to know how to identify the signs and then how to ask directly – “have you had thoughts of suicide.” CFGC offers safeTALK suicide prevention trainings, which are open to the community. Through safeTALK, anyone age 15 or older can become aware of what to look for and build confidence knowing they can connect an at-risk person with the right resources.
Reach Out for Help
Many parents who are concerned about a child’s mental health feel alone. But, they are not. Don’t hesitate to reach out to for help from a mental health professional or community mental health agency. A therapist knows how to explore sensitive issues. Sometimes a child will talk about difficult things more with a professional than with their parents or caregivers.
Below is a schedule of CFGC upcoming suicide prevention and other community mental health trainings:
CFGC’s community education and trainings take place in Northridge and empower caring citizens to identify people at risk and prevent mental health crisis in their families, schools, workplaces and communities.
safeTALK – A half-day alertness training that prepares anyone over the age of 15, regardless of prior experience or training, to become a suicide-alert helper. safeTALK-trained helpers can recognize the signs and take action by connecting those at risk for suicide with life-saving intervention resources.
June 20, 2017 – 5:30pm to 9:00pm
ASIST – A two-day interactive workshop in suicide first aid that teaches participants to recognize when someone may have thoughts of suicide and work with them to create a plan that will support their immediate safety. Although ASIST is widely used by healthcare providers, participants don’t need any formal training to attend the workshop—anyone 16 or older can learn and use the model.
June 15 and 16, 2017 – 8:30am to 4:30pm
September 14 and 14, 2017 – 8:30am to 4:30pm
Mental Health First Aid – An eight-hour course that gives people the skills to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. Learn to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness.
August 5, 2017 – 8:30am to 5:30pm
For more information and reservations for the trainings please search for CFGC in either your app store (iPhone) or Google Play (Android) to DOWNLOAD CFGC’s App. Or, please contact Diane Montano at 818.739.5155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Child and Family Guidance Center
Child and Family Guidance Center (CFGC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit mental healthcare organization dedicated to providing prevention, early intervention and treatment services. For more information, please visit www.childguidance.org, or follow #CFGC on social media – CFGC on Facebook, @CFGCmission on Twitter.
About the Caroline Nercessian, LCSW
Caroline Nersessian, LCSW is CFGC’s Clinical Director of School-Based Services, Therapeutic Behavioral Services and the Northpoint School. Along with maintaining a small private practice in the San Fernando Valley, Caroline is a part-time faculty member at the California State University, Northridge Masters of Social Work Department. She is trained and certified in the LivingWorks models of suicide prevention, including safeTALK, suicide awareness; ASIST, suicide prevention; and Suicide to HOPE, a recovery and growth model for suicide prevention. Her goals are to bring suicide awareness to the community, reduce stigma, empower people to discuss issues related to suicide and, ultimately, to save lives.