Let’s Discuss “13 Reasons Why”

It is children’s mental health awareness week and I have been asked what I think about the Netflix Series, “13 Reasons Why.” I cannot tell you how grateful I was to receive this email from our school district that my own children attend. As a mother and a child psychiatrist I am sharing this with all of you as I think it is well written and offers great tips, tools and more as to how you can be a “present parent” in engaging your children in important discussions about this show, other “mature audience” shows, their use of social media and more!

Here is the email I received this morning:

Dear MBUSD Community:

By now you’ve probably heard about the new Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why (13RW), based on the popular book by Jay Asher. In the story, a group of high school students attempt to piece together a story left behind by their classmate, who died by suicide.

The series is rated TV-MA, for mature audiences only, which means that it may not be appropriate for children under 17 because of crude indecent language, explicit sexual activity, or graphic violence. While the series does attempt to bring up important topics, it goes against the recommendations of many mental health providers and suicide prevention models. There are real concerns that the series potentially glamorizes suicide and does not offer crucial  information regarding mental illness and available support. 

Many of our students are watching the series, and while we are not making recommendations about the show itself, we know that families will of course make their own decisions . If you decide  to allow your children to watch it, we strongly encourage you to watch it with them and engage in conversation about the sensitive and emotional topics that it raises (in addition to suicide, these topics include teen drinking, bullying, sexting, rape, etc.). One of our parent education partners is Common Sense Media. They provide excellent guidance for parents on many media pieces, and they do have recommendations about this series. Their recommendations can be found here.

We take all threats of self-harm seriously. If a student makes any kind of threat of self-harm, we will take appropriate next steps , including risk screening and contacting parents and guardians . We never want our students to feel that suicide is a solution. We also want to make sure that parents and guardians know what to watch for; you can read more about suicide prevention and warning signs of suicidal behavior here. 
These are difficult topics to discuss with your children. Specific talking points for discussing 13 Reasons Why can be found here

If you need more information or support, please feel to reach out to your school’s support staff or me.

Sincerely,

Assistant Superintendent, Student Services
Manhattan Beach Unified School District

I emailed MBUSD to say thank you for this and to say, “Well done.” It is OUR responsibility as parents, teachers, doctors and adult role models to help our children thrive and to engage in their lives.

As an adult and child psychiatrist I have been on the mental health front lines battling mental illness crisis’ now for over 20 years. Since last December I have had 9 suicidal referrals to my practice and 7 individuals are under age 18 who are now safe and are in recovery. This is a higher than average amount in my practice and I believe the level of fear, anger and hatred on social media, in the news, and in our discussions is contributing to OUR societal mental health emergency.

I strongly feel as a society we can focus on prevention and reducing the stigma and shame around mental health issues. I posted an article, “The Reality of Suicide” last month and my article on “Cyberbullying Takes Lives” reached >40,OOO people.

WE as a society need to come together and decide to set examples for our youth and for each other that OUR collective mental health and wellbeing is a top priority! I am so happy that Lady Gaga, the Royal family and other celebrities and athletes are talking about mental wellness and encouraging OUR youth to speak out and get help.

All of you that are “MENTAL HEALTH WARRIORS” are making a difference and I thank you for your posts, shares, and messages! It is team “WE” and I know that we are shifting and changing the way WE think, talk and act about mental health!

With gratitude,

Dr. Denise
Denise McDermott M.D.

For more tips, tools and more about mental health, check out my ebook!

Dr. Gurmeet Singh Narang on Happiness, Tavleen and the Tavleen Foundation


Dr. Gurmeet Singh Narang is a humanitarian, writer, speaker, and happiness teacher. His recent internationally recognized book was launched in November 2016 named “My Happiness-cultivating a noble and generous heart.”

Dr. Narang is an industrial engineer with a Ph.D in management engineering. An author (“The Words of My Guru”), singer (“Waheguru Simran”, “San ko data ram, “Nimaani”), and well-known motivations speaker, Dr. Narang was presented with the “Award of Honor” by the International Feteh Academy, Amritsar in 2015 and the “World Sikh Achiever” award in 2017.

Dr Narang is founder president and chief happiness officer of India’s only eternal happiness organisation –The Tavleen Foundation. The Tavleen Foundation was formed by Dr Narang in loving memory of his daughter Tavleen in 2009. Dr Narang lost Tavleen in 2008 due to bone cancer

The Tavleen Foundation is active in the field of values, social awareness and contemplative studies, working to reduce suffering in human lives and thus bringing happiness in life. The foundation publishes the prestigious journal “Soul Space“, featuring distinguished contributors from all over the world.

Instrumental Music from the song JUST SIMPLIFY
Sung by Michel Pascal
Composed by Paul Pesco
Lyrics Michel Pascal and His Holiness Dalai-Lama, from the book “Instants Sacres”
© 2016

Dr. Richard Aiken on Food as Mind Medicine


Dr. Aiken is a chemical engineer and physician emphasizing in Lifestyle Medicine. Has a PhD in chemical engineering from Princeton University and an MD from the University of Utah, where he was a tenured professor. His residency in general psychiatry and fellowship in child psychiatry were at Washington University in St. Louis. He has lectured throughout the United States and Europe and is the author of many peer reviewed scientific articles. He is Board certified in psychiatry and is associated with Missouri State University’s Taylor Health & Wellness Center.

Dr. Aiken is the author of Neurodietetics: The Dietary Science of Human Flourishing.

Instrumental Music from the song JUST SIMPLIFY
Sung by Michel Pascal
Composed by Paul Pesco
Lyrics Michel Pascal and His Holiness Dalai-Lama, from the book “Instants Sacres”
© 2016

Dr. Denise and Rev. Howard Caesar Discuss Oneness, Unity and Love


Howard Caesar has been speaking, teaching and inspiring audiences with his transformational spiritual messages since his twenties. Recognized as a leader in his field, he has served and built two large ministries, the most recent being Houston, Texas where he served for 30 plus years. His positive, practical, progressive approach to spirituality has empowered thousands of people to live happier, more prosperous and fulfilling lives.

He has traveled the world, led pilgrimages to other lands, presenting uplifting messages to tens of thousands via radio, TV, and the internet, always communicating inclusivity, diversity, love and oneness.

Rev. Caesar is the author of the newly released book “One + One Is One”.

Instrumental Music from the song JUST SIMPLIFY
Sung by Michel Pascal
Composed by Paul Pesco
Lyrics Michel Pascal and His Holiness Dalai-Lama, from the book “Instants Sacres”
© 2016

An interview with humanitarian and holistic therapist Dr. Marcy Cole


Marcy Cole, Ph.D is a Holistic Psychotherapist, Bestselling Co-Author, Speaker, Community Mobilizer, and Humanitarian Visionary.

Dr. Cole is a blog author for the Huffington Post, as well as Thrive Global, and contributed to two best-selling anthologies:
Living Proof: Celebrating the Gifts that Came Wrapped in Sandpaper and Get Your Woman On: Embracing Beauty, Grace and the Power of Women.

She has been featured on television shows including Dr. Drew’s Life Changers, Millionaire Matchmaker, Braxton Family Values, Issues with Jane Valez- Mitchell on HLN, and Taboo on the National Geographic channel.

Marcy founded a women’s group called First Tuesday LA, offering on and off line programming to promote social connectivity, professional networking and social service.

In the fall of 2011 she launched a virtual platform for women without children: Childless Mothers Connect, providing an online haven to share their stories, resources, struggles and triumphs with one another.

Marcy is also the Founder and Executive Director for the Non-Profit organization ”CMomA” (Childless Mothers Adopt), offering opportunities to childless single women, and couples who adopt the organizations mission of helping orphaned children in need through adoption, foster care and mentorship.

Instrumental Music from the song JUST SIMPLIFY
Sung by Michel Pascal
Composed by Paul Pesco
Lyrics Michel Pascal and His Holiness Dalai-Lama, from the book “Instants Sacres”
© 2016

“Survive, Thrive, Pay It Forward” discussion with Connie Rankin, Author of “God Gave Us Wings”


Connie Rankin is an author and CEO of an award-winning commercial real estate company in Houston, Texas.  She has received numerous awards that include the Women of Influence by the National Real Estate Forum, Business Star, Women Business Enterprise Advocate by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, and the Fastest-Growing Women-Owned Businesses by the Houston Business Journal. She has appeared on CBS, Fox 26, on the cover of Business Today magazine, and a contributing writer for Huffington Post.

Connie’s passion is mentoring women, entrepreneurs, leaders and people just starting out on how to achieve success. She has transcended her childhood of life-threatening injury, sudden poverty, and even being homeless to now one of success. Her book “God Gave Us Wings” illustrates the “survive, thrive, pay it forward” of the inspirational women in her book.

Instrumental Music from the song JUST SIMPLIFY
Sung by Michel Pascal
Composed by Paul Pesco
Lyrics Michel Pascal and His Holiness Dalai-Lama, from the book “Instants Sacres”
© 2016

The Reality of Suicide

Since December 1, 2016 I have had seven patients in my practice with suicidal thoughts, 5 of the 7 individuals were under age 16.

In all of my years as a psychiatrist in private practice I have not experienced this level of acuity of patients in crisis simultaneously since I worked on the inpatient unit at Grady Memorial Hospital while doing my residency at Emory University.

4 out of 5 of the children that I helped move from suicidal crisis into stabilization experienced varying levels of verbal abuse in person and on social media which motivated me to write my post, “Cyberbullying Takes Lives,” and to interview Lauren Batchelder last December.

In my book, “Mental Health and How to Thrive” I shared that there has been a rise in suicide according to the April of 2016 Center for Disease Control and Prevention Report the number of suicides in the United States has been on the rise since 1999 in everyone between the ages of 10 and 74, with greater annual percent increases after 2006. In 2014, 13 people out of every 100,000 took their own lives, compared with 10.5 per 100,000 in 1999. The suicide rate increased every year from 1999 to 2014 among both women and men and in every age group except those 75 and older.

My colleague, Allen Y. Tien M.D. MHS tweeted, “more scientific evidence for mental health harms, doubled risk of depression of those who bully and are being bullied” and shared a graph and the article, JAMA Psychiatry February 2016 article, “Association of Bullying Behavior at 8 years of Age and Use of Specialized Services for Psychiatric Disorders by 29 Years of Age.

I am not sharing these statistics to instill any fear, just the opposite. Awareness about the importance of OUR mental health is the first step in taking action. If you, your child or someone you love is experiencing a change in mood, increased stress, or is emotional struggling do not ignore it. I find that teachers and coaches have been invaluable in letting parents know if their child is experiencing distress that is “out of the ordinary.” It is important for parents to pay attention to any changes in academic performance, patterns of socializing, or any other physical or emotional signs that your child might be suffering. Pediatricians and primary care doctors are a great resource for referrals to therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists for a mental health evaluation.
Here are some more resources:

NAMI http://www.nami.org
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

I think it is also vital as a society that we change the way we think, talk and act about mental health. I choose my words carefully when talking with my patients and use terms like “your mental health, you wellbeing” instead of “illness and disorder.” I find that there is so much stigma around needing emotional help and that words matter.

For more tips, tools and facts check out, “Mental Health and How to Thrive.
“When individuals thrive, WE all thrive.” ~Dr. Denise