Sunday, February 25, 2018

Suicide In the Age of 13 Reasons Why

This month Ashe County Public Library continues the focus on maintaining and managing mental health with a series of programs to complement its current community read by author Kevin Hines; Cracked Not BrokenKevin was diagnosed at age 17 with Bipolar Disorder. In the year 2000 he attempted suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge and survived.  Today he is actively spreading the message of living mentally healthy around the globe.   Though suicide is a complex health issue, it can be prevented.  Just as we learn the risk factors and warning signs for a heart attack, we should also know the risk factors and warning signs for a suicidal crisis.  Education is key to preventing suicide and the library encourages everyone to take advantage of opportunities for learning about mental health and wellness.  

In March of 2017, Netflix released the series 13 Reasons Why (13RW).  13RW is an adaptation of the novel 13 Reasons Why by, Jay Asher.  It tells the story of teenager Hannah Baker and her tragic spiral of despair, trauma, interpersonal isolation, and suicidal thinking that culminates in the graphic and extended visual depiction of her suicide.  Prior to Hannah's death by suicide, she composes and disseminates 13 cassette tapes documenting her mostly retaliatory “reasons why.” The tapes are incisive yet poetic diatribes directed at those she believed contributed to her demise.  The graphic suicide scene is equally sharp, which is bookended by disturbing sequences of sexual assault, substance abuse, and a steady stream of emotional cruelty and naïve neglect perpetrated by all.
It could be argued that 13RW is art imitating life and that there is much to like about the series, most notably that it has raised awareness about these important issues. Indeed, as the producers pointed out in an epilogue (13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons), they not only intended to entertain the audience but they wanted to tell a story that “resonates with young people,” which they hoped would contribute to increased help-seeking behaviors such as contacting Crisis Text Line (Start 741-741) or calling the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255).
At the same time, there have been a number of serious criticisms of 13RW. Among the most commonly cited criticisms are that the displays of violence are gratuitous or that watching 13RW might trigger extreme distress, especially for those with undisclosed trauma or individuals who watch it alone without the ability to process the disturbing content.
Yet, despite these criticisms, people are flocking to watch 13RW. There have also been concerns that the depiction of suicide might lead to contagion, a phenomenon that has been documented in the literature. A study was published last summer that showed a significant spike in U.S. internet searches on “how to kill yourself” in the 19 days after 13RW was released. But, just when the pop culture and scientific worlds are beginning to wrap their heads around the impact of 13RW, fasten your seatbelts because season 2 is scheduled to be released in March of 2018! 
Dr. Kurt Michael, Licensed Psychologist and Professor of Psychology will use the example of 13RW as a launch point to a more objective, data-based discussion on the epidemiology of suicide and effective approaches to suicide prevention in all three libraries of Appalachian Regional Library System.  Save the date to attend in Ashe Library at 5:30 on March 13, or Wilkes Library on March 15 and Watauga Library on March 19. These presentations will be focused on unpacking the science and practice of suicide prevention for the purpose of helping adolescents, families, and community members address this growing public health problem.
Dates to remember in March: 
Children’s Programs
  • Baby Bounce meets every Friday at 10:30 a.m. for ages birth to 2 years.  Enjoy stories, rhymes, bounces, and songs with a stay-and-play social time afterwards. 
  • Tot Time takes place at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesdays for ages 2 and 3.  Wiggle, giggle, laugh, sing, and create.  A fun-filled time featuring stories, music, and a craft.
  • Storytime for ages 4 and 5 is at 10:30 a.m. every Thursday.  Join us for ABC adventures with stories, art, and music. 
  • The Illustrator Book Club meets at 3:30 p.m. on March 8 for grades 3-6.  Observe the artistic style of Eric Carle and attempt to re-create it.
  • The Lego Block Party meets at 4:00 p.m. on March 27 for grades 1-5. Come out to build, create, and make new friends.
Tween & Teen Programs
  • Teens meet at 4:00 p.m. on March 6 for video gaming fun.
  • Board Game Café / Teen Advisory Council will meet at 4:00 p.m. on March 13.
  • Teen STEAM meets at 4:00 p.m. on March 20. 
  • Anime Club meets at 4:00 p.m. on March 27.
  • Lego Batman Showing for ages 8-12 is scheduled for 3:30 p.m on March 29.
Adult Programs
  • For all your tech troubles, book and appointment with our friendly reference librarians.  Call 336.846.2041 x227.  Weekly computer classes are offered at 10:00 a.m. on Thursdays.
  • Yoga Club meets in the library’s downstairs meeting room at 5:30 p.m. on Mondays.
  • Brouhaha Book Club meets at 5:30 p.m. on March 26 in Boondocks. There is no assigned reading for this book club. Come as you are, read what you want, and join the lively conversation! 
All Ages
  • Read & Craft meets at 10 a.m.  on March 17. Travel the world with a hook in one hand and a ball of yarn in the other. This month, go to Ireland.  Instruction available for beginners and project materials are provided.
  • The Community Drum Circle meets at 5:30 p.m. on March 13 and 27.  Join the celebration of drums, while exploring the soul and spirit of music!
  • Mountain Music Slow Jam will meet from 3:00-5:00 p.m. on March 3 and 17 in the downstairs meeting room. Songs are explained as to timing, breaks, etc… and played in slow time.  Designed for beginners, all skill levels are welcome.

Good Neighbor Project: Special Events
  • Celebrate Dr. Seuss with a Yoga storytime for families and their children at 11:00 a.m. on March 3.
  • Enjoy a tale of rabbit and mouse, try a kindness scavenger hunt, and plant some seeds from our seed library. Fun for all ages at 3:30 p.m. on March 12.
  • Lunch and Learn sessions on topics of mental health will take place at noon on Thursdays. Lunch is provided; registration is required; call 336-846-2041 x227 to register. On March 1, view a screening of The Not So Secret Life of the Manic Depressive--10 Years On. Ten years ago, in an award-winning series, Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive, Stephen Fry first spoke about living with manic depression and began a national conversation about mental health. A decade later, we return to the subject to understand where he and thousands of others diagnosed as bipolar (as it is now called) are now. As a society, do we need to do more for those with the illness? Is the treatment better? Has the stigma reduced?
  • Learn the warning signs and risk factors for suicide for older adults and how we can help prevent it together at a Talk Saves Lives Lunch & Learn on March 22. Guest speaker Betsy Rhodes, North Carolina Area Director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

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