Program focuses on teen suicide

A local program exploring the warning signs of suicide will be based around the television series and book “13 Reasons Why,” but instead is titled “13 Reasons Why Not.”

The session about teen suicide prevention will be at 6 p.m. July 11 at the Bartholomew County Library.

The first 30 minutes of the discussion will focus on the book by author Jay Asher and the Netflix television series to see whether participants in the session have ever experienced any bullying, said teen services librarian Christina Kelley.

At the library session, teens and adults will be broken into groups, allowing Turning Point and Centerstone to provide information on how participants can deal with stressful situations and emotions. Information on suicide prevention and identifying the warning signs will also be discussed, Kelley said.

Amy Schnapp-Brunnemer, preventionist with Turning Point Domestic Violence Services, and Melissa Newland, regional crisis and access manager with Centerstone, will also speak during the session.

Jennifer Wright-Berryman, an assistant professor of social work at the University of Cincinnati, who is organizing Hope Squads at IUPUC and Ivy Tech Community College — Columbus, will also attend. Hope Squads are groups of students trained in peer-to-peer suicide prevention to recognize those who may be in danger of death by suicide and to seek help from a trusted adult.

Newland said suicide-related behavior is rarely the result of a single source of trauma or a situation.

“Many factors including emotional, environmental and mental health can contribute to suicide,” she said. “Many teens say that what caused them to be suicidal were overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.”

An underlying factor tied to suicide is mental illness such as a major depression, severe schizophrenia and bipolar illness, Newland said. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for teens in the United States, she said.

“There are other environmental factors that can contribute to suicidal behavior including repeated bullying, cyberbullying, severe breakup, an abusive home life or drug abuse,” she said.

Individuals can take an active role in spotting the signs, symptoms and contributing factors of suicide. It’s important to learn and help children develop healthy alternative coping skills to manage relationships and difficult situations in life, she said.

It is also important for adults and children to recognize there are individuals to help them through difficult times such as a parent, grandparent, teacher, counselor, minister, friends or a professional counselor, she said.

“The book is fiction, and we want to be able to help parents and teens discern the difference between reality and myths of why teens generally die by suicide, about healthy relationships and how to help prevent suicide,” she said.

In the book, “13 Reasons Why,” the main character, Hannah, blames others for her suicide and attempts revenge on those who did not help her, rejected her and hurt her in some way, Newland said. However, that isn’t true in reality, she said.

“Suicide is more often the result of underlying accumulative stressors that leads to overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and helplessness and not to get revenge,” Newland said. “It is important that we don’t blame or shame anyone for someone’s suicide. It is also important to note that Hannah could have gotten help from other caring adults and friends in her life, including her parents, teachers and school counselor.”

Schnapp-Brunnemer said she plans to share how individuals can have a healthy relationship and what that involves. She said she also plans to discuss how to cope with a difficult breakup.

She added that it’s important for adults to have an open line of communication with their children to identify when children might be experiencing difficult situations.

“If you don’t have that open communication, then you’re not aware of all the little things that really add up to large things,” Schnapp-Brunnemer said.

However, Schnapp-Brunnemer said with the possibility of teens reading the book, it is important to make sure individuals have accurate information about suicide and can distinguish reality from fiction.

Although some libraries across the country have removed Asher’s book because of concerns about its content, the Bartholomew County Public Library has not removed the book and, because of public interest, has ordered additional copies, Kelley said.

With the popularity of the Netflix series, Kelley said teen suicide was a important topic to share with the community.

“It just seems like a very appropriate time to come together and provide information,” she said.

If you go

What: ’13 Reasons Why Not’

When: 6 p.m. July 11

Where: Bartholomew County Public Library Red Room, 536 Fifth St.

More information or to register: 812-379-1255. Advance registration is encouraged, but not required.

Author photo
Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com