Suicide: The conversations 13 Reasons sparked

Earlier this week, I was pleased to read the thoughts shared by the folks at To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) (amazing organization) about the controversial Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why.

The upshot of the article is this: whether you love it or hate it; the show sparks a conversation that’s been far too long in the making.

Suicide rates have increased steadily and consistently for decades in our country. Remember when we first learned that our veterans and active military were killing themselves at a rate of 22 a day?

Reality check: We learned that in 2012. Time flies. Little changes.

More reality checks: According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in our country
  • Each year, 44, 193 Americans take their own lives (this figure is likely a low estimate for many reasons like differentiating suicides from accidents)
  • For every completed suicide, there are 25 attempts
  • Most recent figures for Maine show us losing 235 of our own to suicide annually

235 – that number hit me pretty hard, kinda like the 378 from last year (number of deaths due to overdose in Maine). What do we see that suggests they’ll be going down?

From where I sit, not much.

I find myself cynical at times. It’ s a coping mechanism for the world we live in. I find myself especially struggling with the number of youth we’ve lost in greater Bangor recently.

Sometimes it feels like we’re hell bent not to learn anything as a culture – even from clear indicators of where are youth are at like music, social media, and movies.

Remember the Breakfast Club? 13 Reasons Why is simply a modern-day version of the same story complete with the dirty details.

I kinda lose my mind every time I hear the public service announcement that the Maine Principals Association continues to air, extolling the value of high schoolers playing sports.

Is that what we have to offer our young people?

What if you’re a kid like I was? What if you’re uncoordinated and your home life is shit and it kinda makes sense to do drugs because those kids are like you and at least they’re nice to you?

We all need a place to belong and we all need reasons to keep going. I want to hug every lost kid I see and swear this oath: I promise it gets better if you stick it out.

Reminder: Growing up is a horrible thing to have to do, even under the best of circumstances.

Let’s get together. Let’s talk this stuff out and find some solutions. Watch 13 Reasons and tell me if you think it’s romanticizing suicide (If it was Eve’s story no one would say that). Then tell me your ideas about how to help kids and let’s do that together.

It’s time to acknowledge that our problems are community problems and we’ll only solve them when we work together. Groups like NAMI know this. Groups like the Bangor Area Recovery Network know this. As do my brothers and sisters in AA, NA, Al Anon, Nar Anon and countless other self-help organizations.

The rest of us need to get on board.

May 3rd  5:30-7 at the BARN 142 Center Street, Brewer – my friends and I are meeting to discuss the impact of addiction on families. That’s a great place to start.

Wanna talk about improving mental health and reducing suicide? Connect with my friends at the local chapter of NAMI and hit their Tuesday night meetings and free trainings.

Wanna talk about what helps kids grow up healthy, happy, and safe? Me too. I don’t have a handy link or meeting for that. If you wanna talk about that, email me: counseling@roadrunner.com

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.