From the Director’s Desk
I hope your summers are off to a rest-filled start. While I would like to share stories about sandy beaches or mountain streams, there is something more pressing on my mind and heart. I doubt few will be surprised to hear that many in our midst are struggling every day with a battle against mental illness. However, acts of self-harm such as cutting and suicidal thinking have become a part of the media and technology world that surrounds us all, especially our children and teens. There is a show currently on Netflix entitled 13 Reasons Why which depicts a young woman named Hannah who commits suicide. She leaves behind 13 reasons why she felt she needed to end her life. This show and the material it addresses is both provocative and difficult.
Rather than debating the potential pitfalls of the show or its possible merits, I would like to use concerns many have surrounding it as a spring board to remind all of us that we encounter people every day who are struggling to find hope and meaning in life. For those who find this hard to imagine, I would first say give thanks to God for that. Second, I would encourage to consider what it might be like for someone struggling through each day feeling like the world would be better off without him or her.
What can we do? Be present. Do not be afraid to sit with someone or talk with someone about feelings of despair or darkness they may have. You do not have to fix it, but you can be an open, compassionate ear—a place of calm in a storm of darkness for someone. Model that it is okay and even expected to talk about mental illness, no matter what the form. After all, is not this what Jesus did so well in his time on earth? Meeting people where they are and loving them?
This newsletter edition contains resources for us all—read it, learn from it, perhaps even forward it to others who might need to see it.
Jordan Inman Joins Clinical Staff
Associates welcomes Jordan Inman, Licensed Professional Counseling Associate, as a new clinician.
Jordan has filled multiple roles at Associates, having fulfilled an internship in 2015-16 and worked as an intake coordinator. She holds a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Liberty University.
“Jordan is incredibly competent and is a visionary for seeing our work reach out to as many as possible,” says Heath Greene, executive director of Associates. “But more than that, she loves Jesus and wants to see his love and healing brought to those she serves.”
She works with children, teen girls, adult women, and young couples. Her clinical interests are anxiety, depression, body image, adjustment issues, self-worth/self-esteem, pre-marital counseling, and marital issues.
“My passion for counseling grew out of my love of working with teen girls in my church,” Jordan says. As she invested in teens while working at a youth camp, she felt a call to pursue counseling.
“I believe that my role in counseling is to understand where the client is, where they want to go, and to walk that journey with them. The Holy Spirit’s role is to bring about healing and ultimately lasting change. When the power of the Holy Spirit meets the client’s full cooperation in counseling, the outcome is life-changing.”
13 Reasons Why: To Watch or Not to Watch
13 Reasons Why is a popular Netflix television show based on a young adult novel by the same name. The story revolves around the aftermath of suicide by a high schooler, Hannah Baker. Her friend Clay finds a box of cassette tapes detailing 13 reasons why she ended her life. Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization aimed at helping parents and educators navigate technology in a way that helps kids thrive, reviewed the series. It says the intense drama “could help parents start conversations with teens about issues like bullying, isolation, and depression” but added that the way the series addresses the issues is complex and could be confusing.
Jordan Inman, clinician at Associates, invested time in the series because she felt it would be helpful for her work with teens.
“I chose to watch 13 Reasons Why because I felt it was something my teenage clients would be exposed to and, based on the content of the series, could have an effect on their mental health. While the series does have a good message—be kind to others because you don’t know what they are going through—I am concerned that this message may be easily missed by many teens because of the other themes portrayed in the series.”
She saw troubling themes in the Netflix drama, including
- suicide is the ultimate revenge
- parents/adults cannot understand/help
- suicide is a viable option to end the pain one is experiencing.
“My concern is that teens who are already struggling with loneliness, depression, anxiety and bullying may choose not to reach out to their parents/counselors/teachers and may ultimately consider suicide. I believe that many teens that are already struggling will view the series in light of their own situation, drawing connections and highlighting similarities, thus considering comparable solutions to their problems.
In my opinion, parents should watch this series before allowing their children to see it and be available
Resources from the American Psychiatric Association
The realistic portrayal of mental illness in television and movies can be an effective way to reduce stigma around psychiatric issues. But it can be troubling if those portrayals do not show options for treatment. A new Netflix show, 13 Reasons Why, has a large following on social media and has garnered media attention for its stark depictions of bullying, rape and suicide. It has also caused some to express concern that the show is “at odds with the way experts say we should talk about suicide,” a Washington Post article reports. Suicide prevention advocate MollyKate Cline told Teen Vogue, “my problem is that the audience is shown what not to do without examples of what they actually should do.”
Click here (www.psychiatry.org/news-room/apa-blogs/apa-blog/2017/04/13-mental-health-questions-about-13-reasons-why) to read 13 mental health questions and answers about 13 Reasons Why.
What is Blue Whale?
Blue Whale is explained as an online community or game where someone provides the player with 50 challenges over 50 days. Each of the challenges requires the player to harm themselves in some way. To win the game the player has to commit suicide.
Recently, a Novant healthcare administrator in Virginia reported an increase in adolescents coming to their emergency department for suicide attempts. In some of those instances, the youths have told the medical professionals that they were playing an online game called “Blue Whale.”
Research into the online game shows conflicting results. The game, which most agree began in Russia, has cropped up across Europe and in several states here in America. Yet many say the scope and effect are greatly exaggerated and it’s more an isolated occurrence than a case of an underground game going viral.
NetFamilyNews.org, a respected and well-established source for cybersafety, reports that many of the articles and headlines about Blue Whale are exaggerated and essentially click-bait. (To read more about this, visit www.netfamilynews.org/blue-whale-2-months-later-real-concern) While that’s certainly good news, even one person seeking out such a harmful game is one too many.
There is a way where too much attention or exaggerated reports about this mental health landmine can actually perpetuate the reality of Blue Whale as a problem.
In other words, when teens believe many, many peers are engaging in a dangerous, life-damaging game, they are much more likely to check it out or see it as an option to dealing with emotional pain.
Takeaway for parents?
- Seek balanced information when reading articles about potential pitfalls online.
- Be aware, because knowing what terms are being tossed about in cyberspace is wise. A teen who is not engaging in the Blue Whale challenge might reference the game name as a way to ask for help, to express distress or interest in self-harm.
On the (Tech) Shelf
The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place by Andy Crouch
Making conscientious choices about technology in our families is more than just using internet filters and determining screen time limits for our children. It’s about developing wisdom, character, and courage in the way we use digital media rather than accepting technology’s promises of ease, instant gratification, and the world’s knowledge at our fingertips. And it’s definitely not just about the kids.
Drawing on in-depth original research from the Barna Group, Andy Crouch shows readers that the choices we make about technology have consequences we may never have considered.
Right Click: Parenting Your Teenager In A Digital Media Worldby Art Bamford, Kara Powell, and Brad M Griffin
Feel like your kids are drowning in a sea of new questions, apps, and devices? Want to talk about digital media more with our kids, but aren’t sure how? Help is here.
Right Click helps you think and talk differently about digital media, as you learn from inspiring and creative parents like you who navigate these ever-changing waters day after day.
Drawing from the best research on media and youth, as well as our own conversations with parents and teenagers, Right Click offers new breakthroughs for your most pressing tech-related dilemmas.
- How to teach your kids to use social media responsibly.
- How to set limits on when, where, and how much you use devices in your family–without isolating your kids from their friends.
- How to handle the tough stuff: inappropriate sharing, bullying, and porn.
- How to make digital media a force that knits your family together rather than ripping you apart at the seams.
Right Click equips your family to approach this new connected world like a team. It helps you develop relationships, not rules. Supervision, not surveillance. And best of all, a plan that works without making media–or you–the enemy.