13 reasons why suicide is not a solution
Journal Star - 5/17/2017
May 17--PEORIA -- A public discussion on youth suicide and prevention was overdue, judging from the turnout for a community forum Tuesday in response to the popular but controversial Netflix series "13 Reasons Why."
Parents, counselors, mental health professionals and at least one student filled the Hult Center for Healthy Living auditorium for an hourlong session led by Kay Blankenship, the center's behavioral health clinical counselor.
Karen Grotts hasn't seen the series.
"As long as it gets people talking, that's the main goal," said Grotts, whose daughter, Whitney, died by suicide in 2004. The family and friends organized the annual Whitney's Walk for suicide awareness and prevention in her honor. The 13th annual walk is July 29 at Jubilee College State Park.
After the forum, Grotts and her husband, Earl, said people are becoming more willing to discuss suicide. The stigma is disappearing, they said.
"But it needs to change more," Earl Grotts added.
Blankenship used most of the forum to discuss myths about youth suicide and how to prevent it.
"I'm not here to bash the movie, I promise," said Blankenship, who has worked in the suicide-prevention field more than 20 years. "But I'm going to talk about concerns."
Her main concerns deal with the series' graphic depiction of a teenage girl's suicide, the portrait of uncaring adults and the absence of any connections between mental health and suicide.
"13 Reasons Why" reinforces suicide as a solution," she said. "Any time we talk about suicide, it's real important to have a message of hope and prevention."
Research shows 90 percent of youths who die by suicide had a treatable mental illness, according to Blankenship. It's important for teenagers and adults to know the warning signs of suicide and depression, as well as what to do when friends or family exhibit the signs.
Warning signs include depression, hopelessness, mood swings, increased alcohol or drug use and anxiety.
A common myth is that talking about suicide will cause suicide. Asking someone if they're considering suicide has the opposite effect, Blankenship said. "Just bringing up the subject reduces anxiety and lowers the risk."
She emphasized that it takes courage to ask for help and to keep asking for help. "Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem."
Pam Adams can be reached at 686-3245 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @padamspam.
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