Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: ’13 Reasons Why'”

More important than giant chickens, more susceptible to compassionate solutions  than North Korea, and more worthy of our consideration than Debbie Wasserman Schultz because anything is, the teen suicide problem generated excelled responses to a post about it here, and was, as topics are so often, quickly buried by other controversies and events.

Lets’ discuss this a bit longer, shall we? It’s worth it. A good way is to recall one of the best comments the post about the Netflix series dramatizing a fictional teen’s suicide and its effect on her friends.  Here is Rip’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Quiz: “13 Reasons Why”:

OK— this issue is one I have spent years delving into. I spent the better part of a decade doing volunteer work; developing interviewing techniques at Georgetown hospital with student actors to help train pediatric medical students on how to find youth that are engaging in or thinking about behaviors that put themselves at risk.Doctors Abrams and Hawkins have done amazing work on developing tools to reach at risk adolescents

I hope to return to  this at some point, but my volunteer work is currently on hold. Here is what I know.

75% of teen deaths, including suicides, in this country are avoidable if there is intervention in time. Suicide is the second leading cause of youth death, and LGBT youth are 4 to 6 times more likely to commit the act. Thank god for the Trevor Project and It Gets Better campaigns: they help. In the 90s when I tried to create suicide prevention programs through theater, I was told by administrators that we could not do this, as it might give the kids “ideas.”

Ugh. The statistics show they already have the ideas.

If we do not bring the problem out into the open and talk about it, we cannot examine, understand it and prevent it. I have been meaning to watch the series, but with the other things going on in my life I have not had time. But I know this show how has opened the discussion: good. The idiots who what to hide the reality are killing our kids. Is that Ethical?

As a theater educator I have had a hand in getting three troubled kids help when I discovered their pain. I do not often talk about it, as it is their choice if they want to share their survival stories. Growing up as a gay kid with Aspergers and a weight problem, I knew bullies, and I had those dark thoughts, but I also had a deep faith that helped me through the challenges and pain. (Yes! Gay people can be people of faith!) Besides, I was not going to give my bullies the satisfaction of beating me down. Though I cried myself to sleep most every night of my senior year of high school, I survived. Let’s talk about it! I will always fight to survive!


Graphic: Psychology Today


19 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: ’13 Reasons Why'”

  1. “Suicide is the second leading cause of youth death, and LGBT youth are 4 to 6 times more likely to commit the act.”

    This line perfectly encapsulates why I dislike the acronym. The list of issues shared by trans people and gay people is short, and suicide in particular, while admittedly more prevalent among gay teens than the population at large, is a particularly distressing issue for trans teens.

    According to the Trevor project, the rate of LGB suicide rates are 4x that of the national average… But they don’t make public their exact numbers or methodology, as far as I could find. However, the Williams Institute did, and they say the numbers are that about 4% of Americans as a whole have attempted suicide, about 10% of gay Americans have attempted suicide, and about 41% of Trans Americans have attempted suicide.

    • Those of us that are sexual orientation or gender identity minorities often have the problem of our differences being used to decide us sometimes by our foes and unfortunately often by ourselves. But to me I do not Care your skin color, your gender,your faith, your orientation, I want to make sure you have the same chance at love, life,and happiness as all of us. I have seen enough ugliness in the form of hatred with no reason for it. Hate is never rational and is used as a weapon to control the feable minded. I like LGBT because there is power when we stick together. I problem is many of our LGB allies forget, to remember that our movement owes so much to our trans brethren. Many who were people of color. I understand those that want a new flag with more color. I think Gilbert would have supported it as his had 8 colors. And he was trying to show how diverse we were. That diversity is our strength I wish all our community realized that.

          • So…. Just to wrap this up in a bow… In the face of the fact that the trans suicide epidemic statistics are being hidden and being watered down by combining them together with the LGB suicide problem*, which could in theory divert program dollars and services away from the people who need it most; You feel it is acceptable to continue lumping people together because… It feels good? Diversity is a strength? Muh community? Don’t let me attribute motives to you, you tell me: What do you think offsets the possible damage I’ve just described?

            *Which, frankly, I don’t know is actually the problem that it’s being presented as without the inclusion of trans suicides, doing some rough and dirty napkin math, with the suicide attempt rates described by the Williams institute and the proportional population rates (Gay people being about 3% of the population and trans people being about .3%) then the math works out that about half of all LGBT suicides are trans people, and removing those suicides from the equation basically brings the LGB rate back to within a percentage point of the national level.

  2. This issue reminds me of a book I read called “The Theatre of War”, written by a guy who puts on Ancient Greek tragedy plays specifically for individuals like veterans, addicts, prison inmates, etc. The plays are put on in their original, brutal, spare-nothing format, and aren’t meant so much for entertainment, but more for catharsis and discussion.

    I haven’t seen 13 Reasons and probably won’t, since I’m not really in the target audience for that sort of thing, but I think it’s important to note that just because something addresses “heavy” topics, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s bad.

  3. Here in Australia we are going to have a vote on ‘same sex marriage’. The pro side have been working hard to prevent the plebiscite on the grounds that it will give rise to a lot of cruel debate, whilst at the same time proclaiming that the majority of Australians are for the proposition. We shall see. Instinctively, I am afraid of the LGBT movements but at the same time I am strongly against the bullying or harassment of these human beings. Surely the laws we have in place to protect individual freedoms should be applied to those of us that choose to harass members of the LGBT community. Or is the LGBT community being used as a trojan horse with the intention of undermining our system of government?

    • It’s difficult to tell sometimes. I always think the best way to tell motive is to look at what comes from the action. “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

  4. I’m not sure it’s the giving ideas that’s the problem. I know very little about the subject of teen suicide, but I’m sure enough in what I know about teens in general to know that suicidal ideas are most certainly already there, along with a lot of other ideas. There is a lot to think about at that age, and most teens have a need to explore every possible avenue of self-expression. What concerns me is that suicide can become “trendy,” for lack of a better word. Exploring all of the inputs and outcomes in a novel is certainly better than allowing kids to become stuck in their own heads about it. Whatever breaks the self-talk loop strikes me as a good thing.

  5. Your statistics are off according to the American Psychological Association. LGBT not 4 to 6 times more likely to commit suicide than straight males and females. This is not to say that suicide is not a serious problem amongst adolescents and need more funding so licensed therapists can work with these kids:

    • Thanks for the link. Very much appreciate when up-to-date source material is referenced. So many commonly accepted stats are simply wrong, but repeated incessantly.

    • 4 to 6 comes from the Trevor project which has been working the issue for years. Particularly in terms to their focus on at risk populations, Many studies skew the numbers less. When in my research I have inquired I have often found institutions often do not even Ask the question in all there surveys. In many cases the parents cover up The victims sexuality.
      Though their pain makes them the victims too. I have worked in suicide prevention For years the Trevor projects numbers seem sound from experience. And I know and have known more straight kids. The stigma and feeling of isolation puts the LGBT kids more as a group.

      • That is often uncounted and having just read the link, the discussion in said link dismissed the reporting as untrue or not serious attempts. Thank god for that but some of the kids I knew were dismissed as not serious attempts until they were. I read every source on the subject. I could point you to truly homophobic sources that dismiss any LGBT suicide numbers as irrelevant. Any research that diminishes claims is not worried enough to help in prevention.

        • Well, if the Trevor project helps LGBT kids from serious suicide attempts and high risk sexual activities ( like unprotected sex), I’m for it. I do question their statistics though. Adolescents do not make serious suicide attempts only because they are gay (or questioning): I have personal knowledge of this as I worked in a mental health crisis center as a mental health worker at the masters level for a couple of years. Young adolescent women made the most attempts that I saw due to family problems or teenage angst.

  6. Just growing up Aspergian in the 70s and 80s was bad enough without the addition of being gay. I’m not, but I might as well have been, since I absorbed all the same insults I would have had I been. With a speaking voice that just didn’t fit in, a lack of interest in sports, none of which I was very good at, overly deep thinking, and quirks like trouble maintaining appropriate eye contact, always looking slightly uncomfortable, and never seeming to know quite what to do with my hands I was not exactly a chick magnet. I was and remain very uncomfortable talking about sex, so I didn’t join in the casual boasting (and total lying) prevalent among my peers, who to hear them talk, were all rivals to Don Juan (with only the highest quality girls, of course) by the age of 17 (in the original legend Don Juan has casual sex with 1,0003 women). I must have been a faggot/fudgepacker/choose your insult, right?

    It doesn’t help when you are easily distracted, have trouble staying on task, and loathe at least one subject (in my case it was mathematics), all also common Aspergian traits, but in my case condemned as laziness. So, when you don’t fit in and have trouble being productive, you already have two strikes against you. Add in the tendency of kids who tease and abuse to go a bit (sometimes more than a bit) overboard, and to continue a bit (sometimes a lot more than a bit) longer than they should after the joke or jest has run its course, and the typical 70s and 80s teacher/parent attitude that the target should either just ignore it, or toughen up, and it should come as no surprise that “life” starts to feel like “a life sentence.”

    When your school starts to feel like a prison, your teachers your jailers, and your fellow students like hardened criminals who abuse and destroy because that’s what they do, there’s very little hope for things to get better, and no one seems to understand you or give a damn, suicide starts to look like a way out of what’s already a pretty miserable existence. That said, though, once you decide, you better not talk about it, and you better make damn certain when you decide to go through with it that you are successful. If you let it slip, you will either be told to stop creating drama or be locked away as a danger, and if you attempt it and don’t succeed, the miserable existence you are already living will seem like a paradise compared to the paper-gowned prison that awaits you afterward. However, if you ARE successful, everyone will say what a good guy you were and what a shame it is that you didn’t see another way and how terrible it is that you didn’t live to reach your potential. Essentially, you will be loved in death when you were loathed in life.

  7. But I know this show how has opened the discussion: good. The idiots who what to hide the reality are killing our kids. Is that Ethical?

    I think that is the issue: Are kids discussing the realities? Does the series portray suicide in a realistic manner and encourage reaching out for help, or does indulge protagonist’s delusions and encourage further isolation?

    Only watching the series can answer this. Are parents watching this with, or even before, their kids? Are teachers and guidance counselors prepared?

  8. There’s a topic to explore: Do teachers and guidance counselors see any changes in students’ behavior that can be attributed to a tv show or shows?
    These people are more likely to detect a trend than s statistics-loving sociologist would.

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