Conversations Crucial in Avoiding Suicide

Print icon

That was the overarching message recently when a team of experts from Hartford HealthCare’s Behavioral Health Network (BHN) hosted a public showing of an episode of the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” in which a teenaged girl commits suicide, leaving behind 13 tapes detailing the way people in her life let her down or hurt her.

One of the most honest moments in the episode, which included the graphic suicide, is when Clay Jensen, the series protagonist and reason number 11, says, “The way we treat each other and look out for each other – it has to get better somehow.”

“It’s important to have conversations because this is what our kids are watching,” noted Jim O’Dea, PhD, MBA, vice president of operations at the BHN who moderated the viewing and panel discussion at Norwich Free Academy. “If we engage with them, we can really have an impact on our children’s lives.”

“13 Reasons” instantly became binge-worthy among American teenagers when it aired earlier this year, but Paul Weigle, MD, associate medical director at Natchaug Hospital and a child and adolescent psychiatrist, said that’s actually positive.

“It has brought up for discussion topics we find difficult to talk about,” he said. “Five thousand teens a year commit suicide – what can you do if a friend talks about it?”

He suggested:

  • Taking all threats seriously.
  • Letting people know, even if that means the friend who threatened suicide gets mad.
  • Let the person know you care by listening.

“Your purpose is to get them to talk to someone who can help keep them safe, not to fix their problem,” Weigle explained, adding, “but, do not rush to a conclusion or judgment.

Paul Weigle, MD, associate medical director and child and adolescent psychologist at Natchaug Hospital, left, and Dr. Laura Saunders, child and adolescent psychologist at the Institute of Living, right, lead a discussion about the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why”, a segment of which was viewed during a town hall discussion Wednesday, Nov. 29, at Norwich Free Academy.

Laura Saunders, PsyD, ABPP, a clinical psychologist at the Institute of Living, said “13 Reasons” is helping people understand depression more and working to erase the stigma surrounding all mental health issues.

“Being depressed is not your fault. Being assaulted is not your fault,” she said, referring to an incidents of sexual assault that also happened in the series.

It’s important, she continued, for friends and family to ask direct questions without worrying that they will “plant” the idea of suicide.

“It doesn’t put the idea in a person’s head, it’s already there,” she said. “It might actually be a relief so they know they can talk about it. Ask how they’re doing. Then ask again. Eventually, they’ll know you’re a resource for them.”

When starting that conversation, Weigle suggested being prepared to hear that the person feels hopeless or beyond help. Pressing on to find the person help is important because treatment is extremely effective.

Conversations can be informal and spontaneous or planned as part of a nightly dinner ritual, something Saunders said is rare today.

 

“There is research into the value of the family dinner,” she said. “It lowers drug use and suicide rates. We are losing our basic social skills with the increased use of technology, so it’s even more important to gather the family as often as possible.”

There is also a direct relationship between depression and the time teens spend online, which has doubled since 2000, Weigle added. Screen time pulls teens away from activities they enjoy, socializing and sleep, which all impact their frame of mind.

For more information, visit https://hhcbehavioralhealth.org/.


What's New


Tweeting for CME’s: The New Way to Earn Continuing Medical Education Hours

You’re a busy professional in the demanding field of healthcare. One of the demands on you is finding the time to take Continuing Medical Education (CME) hours to keep abreast of the latest innovations in healthcare – not to mention maintain your licensure and accreditation! Hartford HealthCare’s Department of Continuing...


Readers: What Would You Like to See in the Next Newsletter?

We hope you’re enjoying your email newsletter. Our goal each month is to give you a rich blend of topical health information, tips and commentary from our medical professionals and updates on some of the latest Hartford HealthCare medical news and services that might interest you. Let us know if...


Back to School, Back To Sports, Back to Concussion Prevention

It’s back-to-school time. For many kids, that also means back to a variety of sporting activities. But before your child takes to the field, keep in mind the potential injuries – especially concussions. Dr. Subramani (Manny) Seetharma is the medical director for the Hartford HealthCare Rehabilitation Network Concussion Clinic. Q:...


Chase Family Movement Disorder Center Expands to Plainfield

Patients with movement disorders in Eastern Connecticut now have a choice for comprehensive, specialized treatment close to home. Earlier this month, the Hartford HealthCare Chase Family Movement Disorders Center opened a new office at the Hartford HealthCare Health Center at  in Plainfield.  Along with the addition of the Plainfield facility, the...


New Haven Overdoses: Why K2 Is So Much More Dangerous Than Marijuana

A day after 76 overdoses on the New Haven Green attributed to a synthetic marijuana known as K2, officials responded to 19 more overdoses by late afternoon Thursday and warned that more drugs from the batch is still in the community. “’Synthetic marijuana’ is actually not marijuana at all,” says Dr....

Woman sitting at laptop.

How Linear Accelerator Technology Can Reduce Cancer Treatments

More than a year after being installed, Backus Radiation Oncology’s linear accelerator is being used in new ways to help patients fight cancer. In operation since last July, the new equipment uses a higher, more targeted dose of radiation for small tumors in various parts of the body. These precisely...

Elderly patient.

Geriatrician Joins Windham Hospital Staff

Geriatrician Mamta Singh is now accepting new patients at the Windham Hospital Family Health Center at 5 Founders St., Suite 100 in Willimantic. Her areas of interest include geriatric consultation, preventive health, cognitive decline in older adults, dementia, behavioral disturbances in advanced dementia, fall assessment, multiple morbidity and functional losses...