Teen suicide: there’s more to it than “13 Reasons Why”

By May 9, 2019

USA (MNN) — This new study shows a spike in U.S. teen suicide following the 2017 release of 13 Reasons Why,” a Netflix series now entering its third season. Suicides among 10- to 17-year olds increased by nearly 30-percent, mostly among boys.

Researchers did not establish a direct causal link between “13 Reasons Why” and the suicide spike, AFP reports. However, incidents like this seem to imply a connection between the show’s contents and suicidal ideation.

Based on a book, “13 Reasons Why” follows the story of a teenage girl who took her own life. Critics claim it puts vulnerable youth at risk by glamorizing suicide and self-harm.

Set Free Ministries’ Glenn Dunn says many teens can identify with the show’s themes. Young people encounter tough issues like bullying, sexual harassment, self-harm, and suicidal ideation on a regular basis.

“These teens, unfortunately, believe that [suicide] may be the way out for their pain. And, unfortunately, in many cases, [they] act upon that.”

However, the scope of America’s teen suicide crisis goes far beyond this specific show. “13 Reasons Why” and similar content are like the tip of an iceberg: they’re part of the bigger problem, but not the whole.

Teen suicide: a clear and present danger

(Photo courtesy istock via ICTMN.com)

As noted here, 38-percent of young people surveyed by the CDC in 2017 had either seriously thought about taking their own life, made a plan, or attempted to commit suicide. Suicide remains the second-leading cause of death for young people between 10- and 24-years old.

Risk factors vary, but Dunn says media consumption plays a significant role in the cases they encounter at Set Free. “There’s tremendous pressure to live through a lens of social media, which isn’t accurate,” he explains.

“[Social media] only presents, quite frankly, a lie in many cases of what the real world is all about… when they (teens) don’t measure up to that, they have tremendous anxiety that oftentimes then leads to depression.”

Like a deadly downward spiral, depression – when left untreated – often leads to suicidal thoughts. When teens act on those thoughts, entire families are forever changed.

Suicide is a complex and multi-faceted issue, but that doesn’t make it taboo. “It’s a viable issue that teenagers are wrestling with,” Dunn says.

“They question who they are, and what value they have in life… we need to meet them right there and give them those answers through Scripture and through Jesus Christ Himself.”

He encourages churches to join the conversation.

“It’s time for us to step up and really help these young [people]. This is the hope of the church in the future.”

From darkness to light

If you or a loved one struggles with suicidal thoughts, reach out to Set Free Ministries today. There is a road to hope.

“Part of it [involves] putting off some of the old lies and working through that, and then putting on the new truth of who they are in Jesus Christ,” Dunn explains. “That’s what we do here.

“It takes a little bit of time but, slowly and lovingly, we see amazing breakthrough in that process.”

Visit Set Free’s website to learn more about their work.



Header image courtesy of Netflix via Facebook.

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