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May 012017
 

The series ‘ 13 Reasons Why ‘ brought the suicide theme for debate

In recent weeks, the suicide theme came to prominence in the main news in the world and Brazil due to . . . a series produced by Netflix “Os 13 Porquês” [13 Reasons Why]. Until then, touching on the suicide theme was something forbidden and harmful, despite official figures showing that there is a growing number in the world in the act of taking one’s own life, particularly among teenagers. Every 40 seconds, someone commits suicide in the world, and this is the second leading cause of death among young people.

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If we can take something positive from this perverse scenario, it is that today people are talking about suicide, and only when we see the problem, without reductionism or simplistic ideas, then we can reach for more effective and preventive solutions.

Why teenagers are vulnerable?

First of all, it is clear to parents that the theme of death is something very common and natural – for a teenager. At this stage of development, the young person goes through radical transformations in the physical nature and the psyche, which will influence behavior directly. The brain will be the Commander of all the physical transformations, sending signals (hormones) to the whole body, so that it is transformed. There’s a flood of new information that need to be processed in a short time the provokes boredom, anxiety and depression.

In psychic terms, the child is called to abandon the infant world and the symbolic death of this inner world is also, somehow, manifested in the outside world. In this phase, it is common for adolescents to express night terrors, dreaming about the death of parents, to dress in black, enjoy loud and disparaging  music and identifying with the gangs. They will have a predilection for horror movies, accompanied by agony and sadness that even they themselves do not know how to name. It is in this vacuum of grief and bereavement of the infant world that macabre games and suicide-themed series gain space and, in the worst cases, effectiveness, especially if such young people are being neglected by their caregivers.

About the series ‘ 13 Reasons Why

Without going into the details of the work, the series-inspired by a book of the same name by Jay Asher (2007), in Brazil released with the title “The 13 Whys” – is a young teenager who took her own life after suffering various types of bullying by her peers at school. First, however, to take her own life, the main character writes 13 cassettes and addresses the 13 people who are related to the reasons of her suicide.

The biggest criticism on the work is precisely the fact that she’s exaggerating in suicide, attributing to a culprit (or culprits) the death of the main character, and detailing the methods she used to take his own life, which is not recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), as it serves as a trigger for people engaged mentally.

On the other hand, the hit series addresses painful themes of everyday life of adolescents such as bullying, family disputes, sexual and emotional abuse, among others, that are experienced in silence by young people, which causes anguish and deep conflicts, especially because adults are not prepared to deal with their questions where they are most needed: in the family and at school. To get an idea of the size of the identification, Centro de Valorização da Vida doubled the number of attendants to people asking for help against suicide, mostly young people citing the series.

Can I let my teen watch?

This is a difficult question to answer because, in the case of a teenager, may be that while we are discussing the “permission vs ban”, he or she already watched the program. Really, I don’t think that the restriction is the best way, unless your child is less than 16 years, as that is the age rating of the series.

On the other hand, neither do we advise parents to leave their children locked in a room, with their personal computers, without any type of filter or critical view of the work. If your teen is watching or expresses interest, this is a great opportunity for you to sit with him or her and, together, discussing topics and taboos that we adults and parents put under the carpet, pretending that our teenagers live in a bell jar.

The series is also completely not recommended for young people and adults who are in situations of vulnerability. In this sense, the parents can be close and assess the possible harmful effects that the series can bring if your son or daughter shows signs of some distress or are may be undergoing treatment.

Series don’t kill anyone. Prejudice and indifference do. Death by suicide cannot be assigned to a series or a game. As I read of a psychiatrist, “blaming a TV series for the suicide death of someone is like blaming the thermometer for measuring fever”. There’s no point in working out one cause for the death of anyone, because many other complex issues are involved in the long run for a person to do the desperate act of taking his or her own life.

There is a culprit?

In 90% of cases of suicide, there was  a mental disorder involved which was not taken into consideration, by negligence or pure prejudice. This could be considered the “guilty element” in the anguish of someone who takes his or her own life. A young person who commits suicide leaves clear traces of the pain that is hard to bear in the soul, and, often, the parents think it’s “his nature”. The indifference, neglect of affection, the lack of attention and lack of listening to the teens can also contribute to tragic outcomes.

It is also true that many adults don’t know how to deal with situations, they are limited by lack of information because they didn’t know to whom and how to seek help. In General, the warning signal should be seen by parents and educators when you notice abrupt changes in the behavior of the young. For example: If a girl has vanity habits like makeup, fixing her hair and always is well dressed and, suddenly, is sloppy that is a sign that something is wrong.

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When the rebate, the sadness, the antisocial reaction and isolation become routine in adolescent behavior, as well as any other sign in the body as self-harm and weight loss, those responsible should not hesitate to seek professional help as a psychologist or psychiatrist. 

Parents, I say to you: “don’t put the blame on ‘ 13 Reasons Why ‘, or others type things, they are just amplifying the distress call that our young people are screaming out for a long time. Note If, you teen is expressing a wish for one thing or another, your son or daughter may not be crying out for help and support. It’s time to review our priorities and not to look for phantoms.

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Daniel Machado

Daniel Machado de Assis, a native of São Bernardo do Campo-SP, is a member of Canção Nova since 2002. Psychologist formed  ath the Salesian University Center of São Paulo, he also studied philosophy at Canção Nova. He is currently Coordinator of the Center for Psychology  that aims to advise and assist the formation of the members of this institution.

Original Portuguese Version

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