What do Netflix’s series 13 Reasons Why and pediatricians both have in common? More than you might think. This Netflix original centers on the experiences of Clay Jensen as he learns about his fellow classmate’s, Hannah Baker’s, reasons for committing suicide. Documented in thirteen audio tapes that she recorded before her death, viewers gain a personal view of one teen’s struggles with the pressures of adolescents. Ever since the debut of the controversial series based on Jay Asher’s New York Times bestselling novel of the same name, viewers have expressed mixed feelings about the series’ portrayal of teen suicide, sexual consent, bullying, and depression. Although this series aims to bring awareness to teen suicide as well as mental health in teenagers, some would argue that this series glamorizes these issues.
Putting these issues aside, among the people who were featured in Hannah’s tapes (spoiler alert), was Mr. Porter, the high school guidance counselor. As an authoritative figure, Hannah sought counseling from Mr. Porter as a cry for help. However, Mr. Porter failed to understand her attempts, thus Hannah deemed him as a failure to helping her overcome her depression. There are a lot of authoritative figures that are a part of a teenager’s life – among them are pediatricians. As a primary healthcare provider for teenagers are pediatricians responsible for monitoring their patients’ mental health? In other words, how does 13 Reasons Why highlight the need for a more active presence of adults, such as pediatricians, in helping to manage teenagers’ mental health issues?
13 Reasons Why and Pediatricians: What Pediatricians Can do to Help the Mental Health Crisis in Teens
What is Wrong with Today’s Youths?
13 Reasons Why highlights the struggles that accompany teenagers, specifically in respect to mental health and societal pressures. As someone who is constantly working with teenagers, pediatricians should be educated on the importance of mental health in their profession. Therefore, pediatricians should work towards helping teenagers alleviate these problems. With that being said, what common issues should 13 Reasons Why and pediatricians focus on?
Depression is one of the most common types of mental disorders that are affecting teenagers across the country. As a matter of fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 12.5% of teenagers in the United States ages 12 to 17 have experienced a major depressive episode. Depressive disorders are characterized by increased isolation, lack of interest or energy, as well as stress. The most common types of depressive disorders that teenagers are diagnosed with are adjustment disorder, dysthymia, bipolar disorder, and major depression.
Anxiety disorders are characterized by constant worrying that becomes a disruptive force, interfering with a teenager’s performance in conducting his or her daily activities. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 35.1% of teenagers ages 13 to 18 are suffering from an anxiety disorder.
Bullying can come in various forms from physical, verbal, emotional, to cyber bullying. In fact, teenagers are the number one demographics of being at higher risk of being susceptible to bullying. As a matter of fact, Family First Aid reports that about 30% of teens in the United States experience bullying. Bullying is one of the causes of mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Similar to Hannah Baker’s story, teenagers suffering from bullying might not actively reach out for help. Constant bullying and lack of resources can create an unsafe environment, thus making them more susceptible to depression.
What Can You Do to Help?
As a pediatrician, it is important to ensure that your patients are leading healthy lifestyles and that includes their mental health. Both 13 Reasons Why and pediatricians have a responsibility to ensure that teenagers are safe and have the resources necessary to combat their struggles. Specifically, teenagers should be able to trust and confide in pediatricians. As an authoritative figure in the lives of teenagers, here is a list of things that you can do to help your patients overcome their problems:
- Create connections with your patients. Pediatrics is a profession that is constantly engaging with people; therefore, fostering relationships is an important part of the job – especially when it comes to teenagers. Struggling teens might have a harder time reaching out, so establishing a safe environment is crucial. Ask your patients about their lives and experiences at home, with their relationships, and even at school. Engage in conversations that will build a relationship based on openness and trust.
- Educate your patients. 13 Reasons Why emphasizes the lack of resources that teenagers have access to when they encounter various situations in daily life. These lack of resources can derive from their school or parents. If that is the case, it is important for pediatricians to serve as a resource for teenagers. Provide your patients with as many resources as possible about consent, bullying, and mental health.
- Open the conversation. Don’t be afraid to open the conversation about mental health to your patients and their family members. It is important to be aware and understand the warning signs of a struggling teen.
- Be aware of small signs. Don’t be dismissive over small problems that your patients might be having. Large problems often have their roots in smaller issues that may seem irrelevant. Everyone, no matter what age group or stage of their lives, have their own problems. Teenagers are in need of guidance and having an influential authority figure in their lives can be the difference between an at-risk teen and a healthy teen.
13 Reasons Why and pediatricians have a lot more in common than one would think. As the main providers of children’s health care, mental health should not be dismissed when ensuring the health of a teen. As a pediatrician, it is your job to ensure that your patients are healthy and receiving the best care possible. So, why not help more children overcome mental health?