Community Panel Discusses “13 Reasons Why”


Monitor staff

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

“It’s maybe the most traumatic thing I’ve ever watched in my life,” said Dr. Steve Cauble, a child psychiatrist at New Hampshire Hospital. “I think it’s very worthwhile to talk about it.”

The “traumatic thing” was the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why, the office-cooler hit about a teen’s suicide that spurred community members and experts to come together for a discussion on teen suicide Tuesday night at St. Paul’s Church in Concord.

The New Hampshire Council of Churches hosted the discussion, which featured Cauble; Peter Evers, the CEO of Riverbend Community Mental Health; Debbie Berman of shemattered.com; and Kate Weeks, a counselor at Rundlett Middle School. The panel was moderated by Pastor Jon Hopkins of Concordia Lutheran Church.

The widespread attention that the show has gotten, and the way it treats suicide, can be especially dangerous, Evers said, who helped launch Change Direction NH, an initiative aimed at spreading awareness about the five signs of suicide and decreasing teen suicides.

“One of the dangers of this show is that it’s really well-made and really well-acted, but really poorly thought-through,” he said. “What really bothered me about the show is that it didn’t really go into the mental health pieces.”

Berman, whose daughter Alexa committed suicide right before starting high school in 2009, said she was encouraged that the show was starting a conversation that wasn’t previously being had on suicide, yet the show was far from all positive.

“Here’s this fictional story, it’s overly dramatized, and it’s an account of this child’s suicide which everyone has been talking about and it’s a good thing that everyone’s talking about it.” she said. “But here in the town that we lived, we had actual suicide and actual bullying going on and real mental health issues to talk about and nobody talked about them when they were right in their face.”

The conversation about suicide among students has been more present since the show’s release, Weeks said, and has prompted the school to implement more programs, including steps against suicide.

“While we want to acknowledge that it’s great to provide support … the next step is really to let a trusted adult know,” she said.

Weeks said one of the keys to helping have discussions about mental health and suicide was creating an arena in which to have discussions about these issues.

“We need to provide a safe and trusted environment with a trusted adult,” she said, later adding, “The family is not alone in dealing with suicidality or completed suicide, the school is not alone or the mental health agencies. … It’s an ‘us’ issue.