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13 Reasons Why: Suicide Contagion

May 11 2017

Download JED's talking points.
Suicide is a serious public health problem nationwide and anyone can be at risk, regardless of age, gender, race, or class. It is well known that suicide can be a contagious occurrence. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website states, “Suicide contagion is the exposure to suicide or suicidal behaviors within one's family, one's peer group, or through media reports of suicide and can result in an increase in suicide and suicidal behaviors. Direct and indirect exposure to suicidal behavior has been shown to precede an increase in suicidal behavior in persons at risk for suicide, especially in adolescents and young adults.”

The newly released Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, reflects on the incidents leading up to a teenage high school student’s suicide through a series of tapes she leaves behind. The popular series highlights the need for suicide prevention education in school and campus communities, yet many public safety and health care professionals have valid concerns the show will lead to an increase in suicidal behaviors in their communities.

The Jed Foundation (JED) partnered with Suicide Awareness Voices of Education to develop 13 Reasons Why talking points, available in English and Spanish, to help clinicians, mental health professionals, and educators discuss the show with parents, young adults and the media. JED’s chief medical officer Victor Schwartz, M.D., wrote a blog post on the show that inciudes considerations for viewers of all ages.

To join the national conversation on suicide prevention efforts and engage in peer-to-peer support, consider signing up for the Zero Suicide email discussion list. Zero Suicide is a key concept of the 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (PDF), a priority of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, a project of the Education Development Center's Suicide Prevention Resource Center, and supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The foundational belief of Zero Suicide is that suicide deaths for individuals under care within health and behavioral health systems are preventable.

Several resources are available to help colleges and universities reduce the rate of suicidal behavior and prevent suicide:

  • JED Campus is JED’s nationwide initiative designed to guide schools through a collaborative process of comprehensive systems, program, and policy development with customized support to build upon existing student mental health, substance abuse, and suicide prevention efforts. JED Campus schools embark on a multi-year strategic partnership with JED to assess and enhance the work that is already being done and also create positive, lasting, systemic change in the campus community.
  • SAMHSA’s Suicide Prevention web pages provides valuable information and resources, including screening and assessment tools, a list of warning signs of suicidal behavior, an early intervention plan, prevention programs, and other tools specifically for schools and campuses.
  • JED and SAMHSA jointly presented a free webinar (video) on our current understanding of suicide clusters on college campuses and in other settings. Experts in suicide prevention and college mental health discuss the epidemiology and demographics of suicide clusters; what we know about settings in which clusters are more likely to occur; and how to reduce the risk of contagion through effective communication, intervention, and postvention on and off campus.

For additional resources, view last week’s Weekly Snapshot issue or visit our online library and use the search tag suicide.


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