Therapist on NETFLIX miniseries: 'It's out there, and kids are curious,' we need to start the discussion

"13 Reasons Why" is a hit mini-series on NETFLIX about teen suicide. (Source: NETFLIX)
"13 Reasons Why" is a hit mini-series on NETFLIX about teen suicide. (Source: NETFLIX)

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Teen suicide is a problem that is not talked about very often. But it's in the spotlight with the release of a new controversial mini-series called "13 Reasons Why" on NETFLIX.

In the series, a teenager named Hannah Baker leaves behind 13 mysterious tapes after she takes her own life. "Settle in, because I'm about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended," her character says in the show. Each cassette tape addresses a person she says played a role in the tragic decision to end her life.

The NETFLIX mini-series, co-produced by pop-star Selena Gomez, is actually based on a book written by Jay Asher that came out in 2007. The series has many teens hooked and some are praising it for addressing teen suicide. But critics say it's too graphic and could inspire copycats.

Cleveland 19 spoke with Jane Lewins of Rocky River, who lost her 18-year-old son Micah six and a half years ago to suicide.

"He was a typical high school athlete, he had plans for college," Lewins said.

Micah was on the football team and a wrestler. Jane says he didn't show any signs of depression, but he was struggling the last few days before he died.

She says it her family has gotten used to a new reality now without Micah, but that wasn't the case at first.

"It was as if a bomb blew up in our house, everybody scattered. Everybody was in so much pain, we couldn't help each other," Lewins said.

She hasn't seen the show, but Jane says it's a good starting point if it gets people talking about the issue.

"One of the things we can do is start the discussion, and that's one of the things this film has done," Lewins said.

Jane is also a therapist and suicide prevention advocate. She is a board chair of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Northern Ohio chapter.

"I don't know that this film was designed to be an educational tool or preventative tool. But nonetheless it's out there, and kids are curious. So we need to use it to start the discussion in a positive way," she said.

She says parents should use this opportunity to talk to their children.

"I think the biggest thing I would like parents to know, is it's okay to ask your child, it's OK to say to them, 'I'm concerned for you, there have been a lot of things going on in your life,'" Lewins said.

She suggests parents watch the show with their teen if he or she is watching it.

She also says at-risk teens should not watch it, it may be too much for them to handle.

The series touches on how society treats people and the impacts that can have when someone is spiraling into depression. It also addresses other tough topics like sexual assault and teen drinking. But Jane worries it misses one important point.

"If you give the reasons why you're thinking about suicide and you end your life, the fantasy is that somehow people will be sorry, that it will have meaning to them. It may, but the person who died will never know that," Lewins said.

You can find more advice about talking to your teenager about "13 Reasons Why" here.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young Americans ages 10 to 24, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here in Ohio, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 34 years old. One person dies by suicide about every five hours in the Buckeye State, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

If you or someone you love is at-risk for suicide, you can call a 24-hour hotline in Cuyahoga County at 216-623-6888. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (Crisis) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or 1-800-799-4TTY (4889).

For more resources on suicide prevention, you can visit these websites:

-National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

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