We need to be aware of suicide. On average, one Idahoan a day will take his or her life.
We need to talk about suicide. Only then can we help the subject shed its taboo skin.
What we cannot do, what we must not do, is glorify or justify or romanticize the act. Today there’s a preponderance of evidence showing that the likelihood of impressionable, distraught young people killing themselves increases if they’re exposed to suicide — through media or in real life and real death.
That’s why we find no legitimate defense for “13 Reasons Why” being disseminated as an “honest” tool “that will hopefully help people,” as its executive producer, Selena Gomez, suggests.
The series is entertainment of a very dangerous kind, and that’s not just our opinion. A growing force of mental health professionals is sounding the alarm that “13 Reasons Why” is hazardous to people’s health, a claim that’s being backed up in Kootenai County, where personnel are seeing a sudden spike in “acute hospitalization” of young people who have watched the show.
We know this sounds like a poorly conceived horror movie itself. For many of us, imagining that the influence of a TV series, a movie or social media could lead someone to actually take his or her life is difficult or impossible. Yet it happens. And it may be happening more because of “13 Reasons Why.”
Censorship is not the solution. Try to ban a popular program and you’re guaranteeing heightened interest in it. We also happen to have this enduring document called the U.S. Constitution that frowns on such things.
No, the best approach is to increase understanding of suicide, know the signs of someone in trouble, and be willing and able to help. Communication is a huge part of that. Sensationalizing the act, particularly for young audiences, is a direct path toward preventable tragedy.
It’s the policy of this newspaper not to shy away from reporting suicides. Per capita, Idaho consistently ranks among the states with the highest incidence of suicide. We mustn’t look the other way and pretend it’s not happening, because if we do that, help will never arrive for a problem people don’t realize exists.
But The Press takes care not to glamorize or sensationalize suicide when we know that’s the cause of death — a challenge in itself because of the stigma that clings so strongly to the subject.
We recommend focusing on reasons why life is worth living. There are far more than 13 of them.
For more information on suicide and how to give or get help, visit http://www.spanidaho.org/ or call the Suicide Prevention Action Network’s suicide prevention lifeline at 1-(800) 273-8255.