My Reasons Why

I’m very much like Clay when it comes to this series and Hannah’s tapes. For me, this wasn’t a show to binge. I had to take it in small pieces, sometimes shutting it off only minutes into an episode.

It took me two weeks to get through, but tonight, I finished 13 Reasons Why. I didn’t watch it for entertainment and I can’t say I enjoyed it but I needed to know how the show was going to handle mental health and suicide.

I will begin with this: Be warned, the show can definitely be a trigger.

Whether you’ve directly struggled with issues related to mental health and/or suicidal thoughts or you’ve been lucky enough that you haven’t, this show will have your mind racing. And maybe that’s what it’s supposed to do.

I’ve talked with many people who’ve watched the show. And I’ve saved dozens of articles that appear to paint this show in a negative light…but I haven’t read them yet. I intend to, but first, I wanted to watch the series and wrap my own mind around it.

As a person who has been through many of the same experiences as Hannah Baker, this show was tough to watch. And I think that is definitely one of the points this show was trying to make. Suicide is incredibly painful to watch. Depression is hard to sit back and watch without being able to do anything. Rape and sexual assault is unbearable to watch. But that’s the point, right? In Beyond the Reasons after the show they described why they chose to show the suicide and the rape. Both had my stomach in knots and I had to turn away during both. Then, upon realizing what I was doing, I forced myself to turn back to the screen and watch because it’s turning away from those experiences , blocking them out, that’s part of the problem.

Do I agree with everything the show depicted? No. Do I think it was necessary to show the act of suicide? No. Do I think it’s okay that Hannah chose to tell these people they’re the reason she died? No. But since this show came out, I’ve heard more people openly talk about suicide than I ever have in my life.

And that should be the point.

This show isn’t perfect. But neither are we. I’m not saying my opinion is the only opinion and I’m definitely not saying it’s right but this is my take on the series.

It’s opening up conversations.

There’s a high school near where I live that preventatively sent out a note regarding the show. Take that in for a moment. A school chose to speak out about suicide and make the topic top of mind for their students and parents before an act even occurred. If that’s the only good thing that comes out of this show, then I think it’s a win. But it’s not the only occurrence. Whether good or bad, people across the country are openly talking about this show, rape & suicide.

Don’t shy away from the ugliness.

13 Reasons Why covered so many taboo topics. Many of the kids in the show didn’t feel comfortable talking about these topics – rape, suicide, slut shaming – and that really bothered me. I found myself turning episodes off during the middle of them because I was so frustrated that they wouldn’t just talk about what was happening. I quickly realized I wasn’t frustrated with the show but with people in general. This happens every day. I know what it’s like to say the word “suicide” and immediately have people blush or even physically cringe, but we have to force ourselves to open up and talk about the difficult things in life because we never know when the person on the other end of the conversation may need that opportunity to open up.

Don’t stop trying. Don’t stop reaching out.

When I finished the series I was left with a lot of questions. Why the guns? Why the second suicide attempt? Why did they show certain things? Why didn’t they have suicide messages and hotline numbers attached to every episode? Why didn’t they choose to create a character who reached out and got help? I think, to some point, I still have some of these questions but I understood a lot more when I watched the after show, Beyond the Reasons.

In the after show, the actor who played Clay mentioned why he understood that some kids don’t reach out, “What do I say? What are they going to say? They’re not going to understand.” That eased some of the anger this show left me with. Whether it’s a teenager or another adult in your life, I can’t stress how important it is to make the people in your life aware of the fact that you’re there, day or night, to talk. Or just to listen. Sometimes as humans, we don’t have the words to describe what we’re feeling or maybe we’re scared the other person won’t understand it. But you know what? That’s okay. The other person doesn’t have to understand what you’re going through or why you made a certain decision. They just need to be there.

But, even so, you can try your hardest to be aware and make yourself available to those around you and you could still miss it. I write that sentence from experience. I’ve been made aware of it, looked for it and still missed it. Sometimes you can stare a suicidal person in the face and have no idea what’s going on in their mind.

That’s why it’s important to reach out. It’s not a one and done kind of conversation. Please, I beg of you, continuously reach out to those in your life.

You matter to me.

Make yourself available to the people in your life on a regular basis and continue reiterating that fact to them. Tell people you love them every chance you can.

Have the difficult conversations.

Don’t miss an opportunity to reach out, to ask questions. Don’t miss the opportunity to recognize when someone is in crisis.

“How am I supposed to live with that?”

“Any way you can.”

– 13 Reasons Why

Watch the show, don’t watch the show. It doesn’t matter to me. But do me a favor? Talk about suicide. And depression. Have conversations about mental health. Take an uncomfortable topic and help take the stigma out of it. Don’t minimize other people’s situations. Make yourself available. Look for signs, but know that you may not always see them.

Tell people they matter to you because, believe me, you’ll wish you could when they’re gone.

13 reasons why

 

Love Is Louder Than The Pressure to Be Perfect

Earlier on this summer I wrote about the lack of celebrities supporting campaigns that help raise awareness for suicide, depression, or mental illness. Since then, I have recently been reading about celebrities that have been opening up about their own struggles with mental illness who have started raising awareness after seeking their own help. I heard about Demi Lovato’s story last year in the news, but it wasn’t until it was recently brought up to me again that I found it had so much more meaning. Due to the impact the story left on me and seeing how much courage it takes to open up about something so personal, I thought I would share it in hopes that it would do the same for someone else.

Demi Lovato, former Disney star, singer who is now topping the Billboard charts with her song “Give Your Heart A Break”, and current judge on X Factor, has been struggling with her own mental illness, self-infliction, and eating disorders for years.

Her story, along with countless others, proves just how easy it is to put off getting help until the problem has gone too far. It wasn’t until she had a mental breakdown while on tour that her manager and family members had an intervention and she decided to get help.

Lovato, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has had a long-term struggle with eating disorders, checked into a rehabilitation center last year where she could learn how to cope with her mental illness. Now that she is moving on to the next stage in her life she has appeared in many different media outlets including, People and the recent cover of Cosmopolitan, she has been opening up about what she struggled with for years in hopes that her story can help others going through similar situations.

“Don’t put yourself in danger. It’s very crucial that you get your feelings out — but don’t ever inflict harm on your own body because your body is so sacred. I wish I could tell every young girl with an eating disorder, or who has harmed herself in any way, that she’s worthy of life and that her life has meaning,” Lovato told Seventeen.

Now that she feels she is back in control of her life, the 18-year-old singer/actress is supporting a campaign for young women who might be struggling with eating disorders, depression, cutting, or other mental illnesses. The campaign, “Love Is Louder Than The Pressure to Be Perfect”, gives girls a chance to open up about their own battles and gives them a place to reach out to others and a place to turn for outreach.

It seems more and more campaigns are being created to target specific groups and give the individuals a place to turn where they’ll feel safe and comfortable to open up about their problems. Every campaign that is shared could be one more precious life saved.

Mental Illness Does Not Discriminate

Last night former Congressman, Patrick Kennedy, opened up to CNN’s Piers Morgan about his own struggle with addiction, bipolar disorder, and depression.

The famous last name has been around for years and I have yet to meet a person who can’t name at least one Kennedy, but just because a name may be famous or a person may be successful does not mean that they can’t struggle with the same illnesses or problems that many of us do. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate due to a name or a status in the society.

Kennedy told Piers Morgan that he is willing to talk openly about his own battle with mental illness in hopes to break the stigma that surrounds this subject. His story goes to prove that opening up to one person may change the life of another, “I spoke openly about it, because I knew that that’s what my constituents wanted, and that’s what they were anxious to hear. And in fact, many of them started talking to me about their own sets of challenges that they felt ashamed about,” Kennedy told Piers Morgan.

Someone as famous as a Kennedy could get a lot of negative press from opening up about such struggles, but it seems that that aspect was never a worry to him; he will share his story and open up about his past if it can help others and work to break this stigma around mental illness.

Talking about mental illnesses or even sharing a personal story could make a world of difference in someone else’s life. It’s time we all start talking about this more openly.

I Won’t Give Up

Image from Justin Ruhl via http://jasonmraz.com/photos/

Over the span of this past year, I’ve done a lot of reading and researching on depression and suicide. Each time I sit down to read about or listen to someone else’s personal experience, I can’t help but be moved by it.

A few weeks ago I came across a video of Jason Mraz explaining the meaning behind one of his most recent popular songs, “I Won’t Give Up”. Whether you’re a fan of Jason Mraz and his music or not, the explanation behind his song is beautiful. It’s a reminder that even the most successful humans can be touched by doubt, depression, and hardships. As he says in his video “we’re only human”.

Take a few minutes out of your day to listen to someone else’s story. Open up. And remember…you’re not alone.

 

Is Celebrity Support Dwindling?

I got to thinking the other night about the support and awareness of depression and/or suicide in our media. Many celebrities make it very apparent which charities they support and give back to. Although I believe all of the charities or campaigns that celebrities support are important, I was wondering how many of these widely known people would support a campaign to raise awareness for suicide and depression? The taboo of this subject is still a major problem today and the campaigns to break this and support mental illnesses or suicide awareness are not as highly supported as others.

As I was researching I found that Joel and Benji Madden, as well as Good Charlotte as a whole, are both supporters of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Although many celebrities may only support some of these causes to boost their reputation, I believe it could be a major push in the right direction if more of these celebrities or people with “big names” would support a cause like AFSP or any other mental illness or suicide prevention campaign or charity.

If everyone would take a little time out of their own lives to raise even a little awareness for this subject, thousands of lives could be saved.

Social Marketing Campaigns

Social marketing is one of the best ways to share information through different mediums. This type of technique tends to use many outlets to ensure that the message can be distributed to as many people as possible. One of the social marketing campaigns that I have come across is called Don’t Erase Your Future.

This campaign seeks to bring about awareness to people who may be having suicidal thoughts. What made this campaign interesting to me was the fact that they look at different famous people from the past and see how the world would be different if they had chosen to end their life. One thing that stands out to me is how blunt this website is. Although some people may find it too forward or not interactive enough, the fact that it is simple to maneuver and is honest is one of the things that caught my attention.

Social marketing campaigns are very effective and have become popular among many groups. When it comes to suicide and depression, I think these campaigns can be very effective if they can actually reach a large part of the population.

Here’s another marketing campaign that caught my eye. We Can Help Us :60

Risk Communication

There are many ways to go about spreading information over a general area. Public Service Announcements, other forms of advertising, and word of mouth are sometimes the easiest way to share information; the problem with some of these can be that the information can sometimes be altered along the way or affected by biases. Risk communication, or RC, is one of the most effective ways to share information among a large population.

Risk Communication, according to the U.S. Public Health Service, can be defined as “an interactive process of exchange of information and opinion among individuals, groups, and institutions”. Although Risk Communication is usually very effective and helpful, it doesn’t always go as planned.

After Japan was hit with a terrible tsunami last March, the country was in a state of shock. When the news of a radiation leak was spread, the country was even more disrupted and the population was increasingly nervous. Some people, including the writer of this Scientific American piece, believed that the risk communication taking place after this news was released could have been better. Even though the country as a whole had been disturbed and many lives had been turned upside down, this writer thought more communication could have made the situation better. Risk communication is vital in many aspects of health safety, including medication that is treated for those with suicidal thoughts and depression.

When it comes to SSRI’s and other medication, some people are skeptical. Every medication can have it’s own risks and benefits depending on the person and what type of illness is being treated. In 2006, some medical professionals were concerned with the warning labels the FDA was sending out on SSRI’s. Although communication over these medications has changed over the years, the concern over different treatments is still evident today. The way in which these journals, doctors, and other medical professionals go about their research and sharing their wealth of knowledge can have a major impact on how the public responds to these different types of treatments.

Lack of Discussion on Depression

As I’ve been researching depression and looking to see where it is or is not reported, I’ve found that many of the articles I’ve been reading aren’t from the United States. Although it is a subject that isn’t largely being talked about in other countries either, it seems to be receiving more attention elsewhere than in the US. I got to wondering why this might be. As Americans are we really that uncomfortable with talking about our feelings? Is it really that hard to hear that someone is continuously in a funk or is having a hard time really feeling happy?

Much of the information that I have been reading that is being reported about depression is about depression or anxiety in sports teams. If this is what our culture has come to, only talking about things that matter when it deals with sports teams or other celebrities in the media, then that really is sad. Why can’t we focus on the fact that depression is something that affects thousands of people all around us?

This article from the UK lays out clearly the problem people have with talking about and dealing with depression. http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/health-news/2011/02/23/depression-the-last-taboo-91466-28214814/