Intersections: ACT

May 08, 2017 by Bill Ivey

You may have heard of the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” and/or the book by Jay Asher. The book and series depict the suicide of 13-year-old Hannah Baker and, through recordings she left behind, events that preceded her death. I’ve seen countless discussions on social media between educators, many of whom are also parents, expressing their concerns with the series. Elana Premack Sandler’s piece in Psychology Today, “13 Reasons Why ‘13 Reasons Why’ Isn’t Getting It Right” does a great job of detailing some of the issues, concluding, “13 Reasons Why doesn’t tell the much more common story of people living with (struggling with, but living with) difficult emotions and experiences and figuring out, with support and help from others, how to survive.”

Of course, understanding what the program gets wrong is only part of the picture. How could they have done a better job - and, by extension, how can educators, parents, and anyone with children they love in their lives do a good job supporting them? On this topic, MollyKate Cline writes in Teen Vogue of the importance of reaching out to kids, opening conversational channels, and of course along with that the importance to kids of reaching out themselves in the first place.

In sharing a link to article on the topic on my Facebook page, I found a spontaneous conversation sprang up between teachers and former students. On the related topic of not always knowing about the good one brings to the world, a former student suggested an activity I’ve done in the past with advisory groups. Students put pieces of paper on their backs, and everyone writes an affirmation on every piece of paper. Once everyone’s done writing, each student may read (and of course keep) all the affirmations.

Our school counselor, Ellen Carter, is also sharing resources with faculty and staff, including a link to a newsletter that offered this concise advice for kids:

Remind students that there is always something they can do if they are concerned about something someone has said or done in person or online: ACT

  • Acknowledge that they are seeing warning signs and that it is serious
  • Care: show the person your concern
  • Tell a trusted adult
Like many people, my life has been touched repeatedly by suicide - a high school friend, a former middle school student who attended another high school, a friend of my son’s, still others. So, beyond the resources I’ve already shared, here are two more:
  • National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
  • The Trevor Project (for LGBTQ+ youth): 1-866-488-7386 and their website

If you have any questions, please contact Ellen, Kristen Peterson, Dean of Students, me, or any other trusted adult in our school. Be well and take care.

Written by Bill Ivey

A dedicated member of the faculty, Bill Ivey is the Middle School Dean at Stoneleigh-Burnham School. He teaches Humanities 7 and the Middle and Upper School Rock Bands. Bill is the advisor for MOCA, the middle school student government, and he coordinates and participates in the middle school service program. Among his many hats, Bill also coordinates social media for Stoneleigh-Burnham School.

Find me on:

Filed Under: suicide awareness, teen suicide, Intersections