Friday, June 23, 2017

Books, Summer Reading, and a Long List

Tsundoku: The Japanese word for buying books that you'll never read. This is me (this is Chuck posting). I possess all the books below. I've purchased most of them in the past year in order to read them "sometime soon." So many book, so little time. I have a habit of purchasing books when I see them recommended in podcasts, in articles, on Facebook or Twitter. This is one of way too many shelves filled with books. Wait, that's not right. There are never too many books!

Most of these can be used by students who are doing summer reading. Apparently, the last time we did a summer reading list was 2013 and can be found here.


My Psychology Summer Reading 



posted by Chuck Schallhorn

APA Convention and Workshop

The information about this year's APA convention is detailed below. There are several opportunities for high school teachers to see the experts and learn more about psychology.


The annual American Psychological Association (APA) Convention will be held August 3-6, 2017, in Washington, DC.  Here are three important reasons to consider attending APA:
                                                                                          
1.       Full Day Pre-Convention Workshop for Psychology Teachers

On Wednesday, August 2, the APA Education Directorate is hosting a full day workshop for psychology teachers on hard to teach topics and enhancing the teaching of introductory psychology.  The cost of this workshop is $40 to attend for TOPSS members; breakfast, lunch, and materials will be provided. Presenters are Dana S. Dunn, Ph.D., of Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA, Nancy Fenton of Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, IL, and Jessica Flitter of West Bend High School in West Bend, WI.  For details and to register, please visit http://on.apa.org/2kCAOhl.  The registration deadline is July 1.  The workshop will be held at Trinity Washington University in the Payden Academic Center.  We hope you will register soon. 

2.       TOPSS Invited Speakers and Reception
                                                                                 
The APA Committee of Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS) is pleased to announce the TOPSS invited speakers at Convention.  These sessions will all be held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Friday, August 4:

  • Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., Arizona State University: The Lee Gurel Lecture: The Power of Persuasion 

  • James T. Lamiell, Ph.D., Georgetown University: In the Light of a Star: An Introduction to the Life and Works of William Stern (1871-1938)

  • Randal M. Ernst Lecture: High School Psychology: A Discussion on the 2017 APA Summit, with Randal M. Ernst, EdD, Nebraska Wesleyan University; Amy Fineburg, Ph.D., Jefferson Public Schools; and other summit participants

There will also be a reception for high school psychology teachers at RFD Washington (810 7th Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20001), from 5:00-6:30 PM on Friday, August 4.  We hope you can join us for complimentary drinks and appetizers. 

3.       The APA Convention is an Outstanding Opportunity to Learn about Psychology and Network with Teachers and Psychologists

You can choose from hundreds of sessions on psychology, including numerous plenary addresses on cutting-edge research in the field at APA.  Many sessions are aimed at educators; you can also read about additional convention sessions for teachers through the Society for the Teaching of Psychology website at http://teachpsych.org/conferences/apa/index.php.


posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

"Fake News" and Psychology

I've been interested for a while in the psychology of "fake news" - more specifically, how can we help students think more critically about psychological claims they see in the media? Here are a few resources that might be useful - let me know in the comments if you use any of these and/or have other resources to share



posted by Rob McEntarffer

Monday, May 22, 2017

Cognitive Load Theory: the most important psych theory for teachers ever in the history of everything?

A while ago, Dylan Wiliam (one of my favorite educational researchers) posted this dramatic tweet:

When Dylan Wiliam says something like that, I pay attention! But I didn't find the linked paper easy to digest/apply, and I struggled a bit to see what the BIG DEAL was.

BUT this blog post from Dan Williams helped me quite a bit.


The post walks through the theory with an emphasis on how teachers might USE cognitive load research to help students learn. I get to teach a graduate class in the "Psychology of Teaching" and this might turn out to be a "centerpiece" of the class...



posted by Rob McEntarffer

Monday, May 15, 2017

Repost: The Value of Self-Reflection


I share the ideas here from Beth Lewis at About.com.  Her words are incredibly important to those of us in the profession.  I give her full and complete credit for the ideas below.  I just wanted to make sure my fellow psychology instructors also saw these.

The Value of Self-Reflection - Any Time Of Year, It's Important To Self-Reflect

Examining What Worked And What Failed In The Past Can Lead To Future Triumphs

By , About.com Guide
In a profession as challenging as teaching, honest self-reflection is key. That means that we must regularly examine what has worked and what hasn't in the classroom, despite how painful it can sometimes be to look in the mirror. Then take your answers and turn them into positive, resolute statements that give you concrete goals on which to focus immediately. Be honest, work hard, and watch your teaching transform for the better!

Ask Yourself These Tough Questions - And Be Honest!

  • Where did I fail as a teacher in the past? Where did I succeed?
  • What is my top teaching goal for the coming year?
  • What can I do to make my teaching more fun while adding to my students' learning and enjoyment?
  • What can I do to be more proactive in my professional development?
  • What resentments do I need to resolve in order to move forward more optimistically and with a fresh mind?
  • What types of students do I tend to ignore or do I need to spend more time serving?
  • Which lessons or units am I only continuing to perform out of habit or laziness?
  • Am I being a cooperative member of my grade level team?
  • Are there any aspects of the profession that I am ignoring out of fear of change or lack of knowledge? (i.e. technology)
  • How can I increase valuable parental involvement?
  • Have I done enough to foster a productive relationship with my administrator?
  • Do I still enjoy teaching? If not, what can I do to increase my enjoyment in my chosen profession?
  • Do I bring additional stress upon myself? If so, how can I decrease or eliminate it.
  • How have my beliefs about learning and pedagogy changed over the years?
  • What minor and/or major changes can I make to my academic program in order to directly increase my students' learning?

What Happens If You Refuse To Self-Reflect

Put earnest effort and pure intention into your self-reflection. You don't want to be one of those stagnant teachers that drably presents the same ineffective and outdated lessons year after year. The unexamined teaching career can lead to becoming just a glorified babysitter, stuck in a rut and no longer enjoying your job! Times change, perspectives change, and you must change in order to adapt and remain relevant in the ever-changing world of education.
Often it's difficult to get motivated to change when you have tenure and "can't be fired" but that's precisely why you must undertake this effort on your own. Think about it while you're driving or doing the dishes. It doesn't matter where you self-reflect, only that you do it earnestly and energetically.
snip snip


Posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

APA Professional Development

For anyone who is looking for inexpensive CE credits or just looking to learn even more about the world of psychology in connection to our careers as educators, the American Psychological Association (APA) offers many opportunities for professional growth. Topics include:




Check out this link for the main professional development page:
http://www.apa.org/education/k12/professional-development.aspx


Link to full list of PreK-12 learning opportunities available


posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Friday, May 5, 2017

Fidget Spinners: What the Heck?

Are "fidget spinners" a big thing at your schools? I volunteer at a middle school once a week and I feel like ai SUDDENLY started seeing them everywhere. I talked with one of the middle school students and he says many students have them now, and he was starting a small business to 3-D print custom spinners (smart kid!)

This conversation got me thinking: what would psychological researchers say about the potential benefits or disadvantages of these kinds of "fidget" devices? Do they help some students selectively attend? Or do they divide student attention and add to "cognitive load?" Is there a learning/conditioning component (students associating learning with the spinning?)

This might be a fun conversation topic with your psych classes. How would researchers study this? What angles would different perspectives take on the topic?

http://www.livescience.com/58916-fidget-spinner-faq.html

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Monday, May 1, 2017

Good luck on the AP Psych Exam today!

We're sending GOOD VIBES to all the AP psych teachers and students today! Hope your students leave the test feeling great - you worked hard all year, and this is your chance to show what you can do! You got this!

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Friday, April 28, 2017

13 Reasons Why Follow Up: Depression, Suicide, and Prevention

13 Reasons Why Follow Up 

Why I am comfortable talking about suicide? In the previous post, I wrote about my friend Karen. Though I won’t go into detail, my own mother had a 15-year depression that ended in suicide. I have lost students and former students. I am not afraid of this topic. I want to challenge it head on.

 Attitudes and Viewpoints 

“People argue whether the glass is half full or half empty. The point is that the glass is refillable!”

When I read so many complaints about the show, it seems to me that the criticisms are claiming the glass is half full. Critics are correct, but miss the point that there is some excellent content (the water) and is refillable (filled with teachable moments and deep-conversation starters). I must confess that since watching the show and posting the original blog, people keep sharing with me additional articles and points of view. I really appreciate this. It means people are thinking and considering. I love the debate about the show because it is forcing us to deal directly with the issue of teenage depression and suicide without it being a response to an actual suicide in one of our schools/communities.

Image drawn by one of my students who suffers from
depression. These are both how she feels and names
she has been called in high school.

Cautions with 13 Reasons Why


  • The show does not deal with depression and suicide accurately and context is needed 
  • The show could have dealt with those issues differently-and perhaps should have 
  • It deals with adult subject matter that teens often have to deal with
  • Since the show did not, that leaves it up to us 
  • No, we did not produce or direct or edit the show. 
  • I acknowledge that they hired experts and one of the experts did not want the show to be released. Yes, the show is not for everyone--believe me when I say I do understand that 



Yes, 13 Reasons Why gets depression wrong. But it gets so much right. Too many of the criticisms are missing this fundamental point. It's a fictional story but it hits home for our students. One theme that I see in the criticism is that of fear--people are afraid kids are going to use the show as an impetus to die by suicide. Let’s say for a moment that is true. If so, why would we not take the time to educate our kids and adults about depression and suicide so they would not be so easily manipulated? If someone has felt real depression, the thought of suicide, killing oneself, or somehow disappearing will have entered their heads. That much we know. Let’s use this show as a way to talk about what it got wrong and what it got right and what we, as the adults, can do to help our kids in need or in crisis.

Why So Much Discomfort With This Show? 

 Do we spend this much time criticizing romance novels or their popular movie counterparts for getting relationships wrong? How much outrage do we have when popular shows get education wrong? Or when it gets the lives of--fill in the blank--wrong? What if we are focusing on the wrong thing? We are getting angry at the show/producers and ignoring why is it so popular? We are angry about the popularity of a show that depicts suicide in a way that is atypical but ignore why it resonates with so many kids? How much of our discomfort with 13 Reasons Why is projection of our own inability to deal honestly and openly about suicide and depression in general? How much should the condemnation should be redirected back at us for not dealing with bullying and rape culture honestly and directly enough? I mean this sincerely and without blame. We are merely going with the social flow. Teen brains are not yet completely formed and they do stupid things. Teens may not be able to articulate what is wrong but they know when a movie or television series or a book understands them.

Our society has a long history of condemnation and disquiet regarding suicide. Despite various historical events wherein suicide is brought out such as during the Vietnam War when Buddhist monks were self-immolating or someone semi-famous like comedian/host Ray Combs who dies by suicide, it comes into our peripheral awareness. When Curt Cobain (lost on our students) or Robin Williams suicides, our attention is focused and we are hurt and outraged for a time, then we are distracted and move on, reminded only when we see his picture in a meme about suicide.

For many of us, depression and suicide is not a reality we are dealing with. It is relatively easy to pay attention to something else.

13 Reasons Why makes us focus on the issues because our many of our kids not only are watching the show, they are loving the show. It depicts a reality we do not know or comprehend. We need to understand that.

 What the Show Got Right 

Many reviews and commentaries ignore or minimize what the show got right. Smartphones (phones that are little computers and cameras connected to the world-wide web) were not become popular until 2011. That was only 6 years ago. To put it bluntly, no one over the age of 25 has never experienced what it is like to go to high school with the social pressures that are possible with smartphones and social media apps.

  • We do not have any idea what it is like to live it
  • The show gets a lot right about teen life and that truth gets lost in the outrage shown about how the show represents suicidal ideation and its overall understanding of suicide 
  • It shows our helplessness and lack of imagination on how to solve the issues. 
  • They feel out of our control 
  • It shows the entitlement some/many males feel in relation to their connections to females 
  • The process of and possible impact of sexual assault and rape amongst teens 
  • The way peer pressure and conformity works in the real world 
  • The way kids deal with confusion differently
  • The way different kids process emotions and problems “I liked it because I could really related to it. We have people like the characters in our lives, maybe not to that extreme, but we have those people in our lives.”~Alexandra G.
  • The impotence of trying to change messed up and dysfunctional families whether it is 
    •  Alex and his inability to disagree with his dad, 
    •  Justin and the struggle with addiction, 
    •  Bryce and kids like him who are able to use money/status to get away crimes and unethical behavior 
  • The ineptitude of some adults in dealing with bullying or sexual assault.
  • It shows the social dynamics of high school more accurately than High School Musical. 
  • For those of who are old enough, you may recall a show called, “My So-Called Life” that spoke to that generation. 13 Reasons Why speaks to the current generation. 


Why This Show Is Important 

Is this a show for adults? Yes Will teens too young to watch view it? Yes Does it depict depression and suicide in a textbook way? No It is becoming/has become a cultural phenomenon and I might know why. I assert what is really bothering us is that it depicts something none/few of the adults have had experienced. Cyber bullying is something none of us have experienced while being a teenager--it is literally new. My student Alexandra said, “my mother did not understand what I was going through in middle school and why I did not want to return to school with the bullying I was getting. She thought school was still just like what we went through.” We cannot get it completely.

We need to learn to listen and to skill-build with our kids. We need to help them learn how to cope, adjust, work on, improve their skills that will enable them to positively handle their stressors. Perhaps teens understand that it is emotionally rings truer because it does not shy away from or gloss over the uncomfortable realities of being a teenager in 2017.

Is the adult reaction to this show a generational cry for help that something is wrong and we need to respond differently than how we have been? Few are comfortable with the issue with rape despite the show doing an excellent job of depicting two variations of the occurrence.

Rape is a challenging enough topic as it is, but how many teachers are comfortable discussing the issue in a room full of teenagers with a variety of viewpoints. Psychology teachers have the best opportunity to deal with this if that take up the challenge. Seek out experts to come to class. Listen to student questions. Keep a list--bring back important ones for future semesters. It is the least we can do. We must listen to our kids. They love this show because it is a close approximation of what their lives can be like. That should be our main concern. They are crying out for help--will we listen?

This is a golden opportunity to listen to and understand this generation of kids. They like the show not because of how it portrays suicide or depression, but the other issues of the show. This is what kids are living with as teenagers. A complex world that's infinitely unfair. A world that values the wrong things.

The show portrayed the counselor as one who did not know how to help. He could not extend a helping hand. This show presents a world in which teens reach out for help only to find they are grasping at air and a "you've gotta move on " attitude without the skills to emotionally process the events they experience.

Will we be the adults who unwittingly mimic Mr. Porter rather than someone who cares when one of our students is in pain? Who will we be? Our kids are crying out. Will we listen? Will we reach back? Will our efforts help? Will we take off our own blinders and realize that middle and high school has changed and become even more intense than even ten years ago? How will we react once we truly understand this?

 What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say. -Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Each person has their own set of schemas about how the world is supposed to be. What have we filtered out in the discussion of this show. Yes, revenge fantasies for teens are not helpful. But why are they so satisfying? They help give a sense of justice in a world turned upside down in which we don't see each other's private pain but only the facades we present to the world.

We need to teach kids how to see through the portrayals and see the truth while also showing that bad things happen to good people and that life is not always just.

Clay is that kid who is trying to figure things out and trying to seek justice and get people to see the truth. He is impatient and sometimes too quick to judge without knowing all the facts. He is intense and with misdirected guilt and frustration and anger at how life is so unfair. It feels like no one understands him and his friends and he is confused about others as well. At least he is trying to find out what really happened. He was putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Given the right tools, he would make an amazing ally to friends in need.

 Actions to Take 


  • Decide what kinds of adults we are going to be--judgmental or helpful 
  • Listen to our kids 
  • Ask them their perceptions about things
  • Learn more about our kids today 
  • Learn more about depression and suicide 
  • Listen to the cries for help 
  • Get ourselves into the right headspace 
  • Learn what options and choices kids have regarding bullying, rape, sexual assault, depression, etc. 
  • Start dealing with challenging issues directly rather than tangentially or not at all. 
  • Give kids real options for action and not just slogans and posters 
  • Make social and emotional skills a higher priority in schools 
  • Make mental health a priority in schools and communities



posted by Chuck Schallhorn



Sunday, April 23, 2017

Please Hear What I Am Not Saying

I first encountered this version of this poem when I was a freshman in college at Rochester Institute of Technology when Dr. David Wiesner was my first college psych professor. I have used it ever since. The original was by Charles Finn, and Dr. Wiesner adapted it. I was doing some other research and it came to mind and I wanted to share it again.


Please Hear What I Am Not Saying
an adaptation by Dr. David Wiesner
original by Charles C. Finn


Don't be fooled by me.
Don't be fooled by this mask that I wear.
For I wear a thousand masks and none of them are really me.
Masks that I'm too afraid to take off, fearing that you'll get to know me.

Pretending is an art that is second nature to me.
I'm pretending that I am in command and that I need no one.
That I'm cool and that my surface is so smooth and I cannot be shaken by anything.
I act as if I am in control, but please don't for one moment be fooled by my surface, that's only my mask.

Beneath this mask lies no smugness, no complacence.
Beneath this mask dwells the real me in confusion, loneliness, and fear.

But I don't dare tell you that.
I don't dare tell you that this is my mask.

I'm frightened by all the possibilities of my weaknesses being exposed.

I think about it all the time. Will I look like a fool?
That's why I work frantically to create this mask to hide behind in my relationship with people.
This nonchalant, sophisticated facade helps me pretend and shields me from the glance that knows me.
But such a glance is precisely my only salvation.
It's my only salvation if, however, the glance is followed by acceptance and love.
It's the only thing that can liberate me from myself, from my own self-built prison...from the barriers that I have so painstakingly created.
It is only that glance that will assure me of what I cannot assure in myself and, that is, that I am really worth something.

But I don't tell you this. I don't dare to. I'm afraid to.  I'm afraid that your glance will not be followed by acceptance and love.
I'm afraid that you'll think less of me...that you'll laugh and that your laugh would kill me.
I'm afraid that deep-down I am nothing. That I'm just no good and soon you're going to find out and you'll no longer love me...that you'll reject me.
So I play my game. My desperate, pretending game with the facades of assurance from without and that of a trembling little child from within.
And my life becomes a front.
And I idly chatter to you in suave tones about anything that really means nothing.
And yet I can never tell about the crying inside of me...of my greatest hurts...of my deepest fears...my concerns.
I can't tell you that because I am afraid.
So please listen carefully not to what I am saying, but to what I am not saying.
To what I'd like to be able to say. And for what my very own survival I need to say.

I dislike this hiding...honestly.
I dislike this phony, superficial game I'm playing.
I really would like to be genuine and spontaneous and me.
But you've got to help me.
You've got to hold out your hand.

You've got to hold out your hand even when it appears to you that it's the last thing I want from you, because I am going to share a secret with you about myself;
the moment I act like I need you the least is the moment I need you the most.

The moment I act like I need you the least is the moment I need you the most.

Don't be fooled by this mask. When you see anger in this mask, don't be fooled for one second...that's not anger, that's hurt.
The mask of anger is easier to show than the mask of hurt.
And if we make the error of looking at people's masks only to see anger on their face, we may end up in a confrontation only because we missed the point.

You have the power to wipe away this blank stare of the "breathing dead" beneath this mask.
It will not be easy for you.
Long felt hurts make my masks endure. The nearer you approach me the harder I may strike back.
Irrationally, I fight against the very thing that I cry out for - my identity.

You may wonder who I am. You shouldn't.
Don't be fooled by the face I wear.
I am someone you know very well.
I am every man and woman and child.
I am you.

--------------------------------

Remember this when dealing with your students.



A google doc link:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1enIhEqr7QxtWabBpIxHDm7oOpP2XPBV_u7ZrAYT4Kpg/edit?usp=sharing

Posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Friday, April 21, 2017

13 Reasons Why: Being a Teen, Bullying, Rape, and Suicide


Hi, I am Chuck Schallhorn, alive and well, and with whatever device you are reading this on, please understand that this is my story, not yours.

13 Reasons Why




I've been teaching since 1987. In those 30 years, I have had students recommend many things: Dave Matthews (one student made me a tape). The Matrix (should have listened about that recommendation), and Spongebob (still cannot watch that one). Like a small child who shares something trivial with us and gives it as a well-intentioned gift, we cannot just give this lip-service and then ignore it. If we do, we ignore the chance to gain some real insights about what our students are experiencing right now.

More than 15 students asked me if I had seen the series, 13 Reasons Why. I had never had that level of response from anything outside of class before. I told them I would watch it and come back with my views. I intend to listen more than talk when I get to see them Monday, and Tuesday, and Wednesday.

With this post, I am talking to the adults. Spoiler alert if you have not watched the series. To be honest, I read some spoilers and it did not take away from my viewing of the series. I will say that I watched the show over my spring break and could watch no more than two episodes consecutively. To borrow from the show, you have to "be in the right 'headspace'" in order to watch the show. For me, it hit close to home. Perhaps that is why I view the series as important.

If you watch this to "be entertained" you will be disappointed. It is an intense series that takes place through the eyes of Clay Jensen, a sophomore at the beginning of the story. We see everything through his eyes, through his interpretation of what he is listening to on a series of cassette tapes left behind by a friend/crush (Hannah Baker) of his who suicided.

During the series, he attempts to figure out what she says about the people who hurt her and how he can make it right in some way. The story plays out as a mystery of sorts--who did what? Who is each tape about? In my words, Clay is attempting an amateur psychological autopsy while being wracked with nightmares, fear, anger, guilt, jealousy, and more during the time he listens to the tapes. All the while we move through time while excerpts from the tapes take us back to various points in Hannah's life.

The series began as a popular book that was adapted into a teleplay that became a 13-episode television show in Netflix--the online video-on-demand service. Did we have that growing up? Could we stream shows right to our phones? Did we even have the internet? I did not.


Why is 13 Reasons Why important to kids? It speaks to their current experiences. It depicts the confusion, the intensity, the challenges of navigating today's digital social media driven world in a way that we never had to.

So many critics of this show lamenting that the show "didn't get suicide and depression right." You can read those criticisms at the links below along with many I am sure to have missed. 

The Articles

Here is a sampling of the articles critiquing the show:

This Is Why People Are Saying '13 Reasons Why' Is A Dangerous Show https://www.buzzfeed.com/jennaguillaume/experts-warn-13-reasons-why-puts-teens-at-risk?utm_term=.xcMPVQwMQ via @JennaGuillaume

Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why is an irresponsible dramatisation of teenage suicide http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/tv-radio/2017/04/netflix-13-reasons-why-suicide-irresponsible

5 Conversations to Have with Your Teens After "13 Reasons Why" | Common Sense Media https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/5-conversations-to-have-with-your-teens-after-13-reasons-why via @commonsense

This Is What's Missing From '13 Reasons Why' http://www.teenvogue.com/story/what-netflix-thirteen-reasons-missing-mental-health via @TeenVogue

Why I Wish I Didn't Watch '13 Reasons Why' https://themighty.com/2017/04/should-i-watch-13-reasons-why-review-suicide/

'13 Reasons Why' Gets Depression & Suicidal Thoughts All Wrong https://www.romper.com/p/13-reasons-why-gets-depression-suicidal-thoughts-all-wrong-51278

Why Hannah's Suicide Scene Was So Graphic On 13 Reasons Why http://www.refinery29.com/2017/04/149561/13-reasons-why-hannah-suicide-scene-realistic-not-glamorized?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=twitter_share via @refinery29


The '13 Reasons Why' Meme That Left Me in Tears https://themighty.com/2017/04/13-reasons-why-meme-suicide-not-a-joke/ via @TheMightySite

How to Support Someone With Depression http://www.teenvogue.com/story/how-to-support-someone-with-depression via @TeenVogue


Mental Health Organization Says 13 Reasons Why Is Dangerous For Those At Risk For Suicide http://www.refinery29.com/2017/04/150539/13-reasons-why-suicide-dangerous

Positive Views/Sources for Help

13 Reasons Why Talking Points
https://www.jedfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/13RW-Talking-Points-JED-SAVE-Netflix.pdf

Hannah Baker from '13 Reasons Why' Could Have Been Me
https://themighty.com/2017/04/13-reasons-why-hannah-baker-relatable/

9 million people consider suicide each year. Here are six ways to support someone in your life. http://www.upworthy.com/6-ways-to-help-a-friend-or-loved-one-who-may-be-suicidal?g=2

Everyone Is Talking About How '13 Reasons Why' Perfectly Tackles Rape and Suicide http://www.attn.com/stories/16393/13-reasons-why-tackles-rape-and-suicide?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=direct-share&utm_campaign=shares via @attn

"13 Reasons Why: Tips for Viewing & Discussing New Netflix Series" https://www.jedfoundation.org/13-reasons-why-talking-points/ via @jedfoundation

Mental health org and 'Stranger Things' star send warnings about '13 Reasons Why' http://mashable.com/2017/04/18/13-reasons-why-headspace-warning/#MoN02AgvG05k via @mashable



Why are we so pissed? It got suicide wrong in that suicide is not typically a "revenge fantasy" as one writer called it. The tapes are a device to move the story. If we discounted stories for using these devices, we would have none left. Nearly every story uses a trope or some plot device to move the story along. This one uses the tapes.

Yes, it gets depression wrong, but how many other movies and television shows get it right? Do we criticize them? Do we become righteously indignant when other do not? Or is it that it gets depression and suicide wrong and teens still like it? I do not have all the answers, only my viewpoint, my perspective. Perhaps it is my selective perception, but I do not recall this much outrage when other shows/movies get it wrong. Perhaps my recall is incomplete or mistaken. In any case, while I did not "love" the series, I related to much of it and was moved and impacted by it. 

Perhaps the show scares us because it deals with topics that scare the crap out of most adults. Many of us, like the counselor, Mr. Porter, despite training, are still afraid to deal head-on with sensitive topics and experiences. Perhaps we are more comfortable reading about them rather than listening to someone express their own pain. Perhaps the show scares us because it reminds us of how easy it is to miss the signs of someone in distress. Perhaps it is because we have our own issues and challenges and we do not feel as though we can take on someone else's. Perhaps we want to ignore a wake-up call.

Karen: My Personal Connection to Suicide


Perhaps the reason the show resonated with me is that I was Clay 30+ years ago during my freshman year in college. I had a friend, Karen, who was in my freshman seminar class called "Artists in Fact and Fiction." I got to know Karen a bit. Enough so she put my contact information in her address book. My story with Karen occurred when we attended a Sunday evening art show opening on campus. After the show, I walked her back to her dorm. We talked outside for about an hour (no boys after 8 pm).

She told me of how she had gone home that weekend to see her family. She found out her parents were split and her father was living in a messy apartment (devastating to her as she was a "daddy's girl" who put her father on a pedestal. She had come from an idyllic suburban existence where she was a straight-A student, the "counselor" to her friends, and a model. She graduated high school in 1982 and went to Valparaiso University to earn her degree. She discovered quickly that her emotions were not the same as when she was at home. In retrospect, I realize that she was suffering from depression at a time when drug therapies were not common. She sought out at least two counselors on campus. Neither seemed to help. Her grades were lower than her expectations. She was having trouble accepting the idea that she had to go to others for help when she used to be the "rock" for others. She hated asking for help. After listening to her, and not knowing much if anything about psychology or depression at the time, I asked her, "You're not thinking of killing yourself are you?"

Quickly, I stammered that she should ignore my stupid question. I was out of line and never should have asked it. Our conversation ended shortly after that.

On Tuesday, Karen was not in class. That night, while I was at work, I received a call from her resident advisor asking me if I had seen her. I had not. For ten days she was missing. We put out flyers in our small college town. We had some limited media coverage (not like we can see today). We came together as campus groups and searched fields and woods near campus. The police detectives interviewed those of us who knew her and were in her address book. She concluded that Karen was having trouble with the stresses of school and was off partying somewhere. We knew better. We knew something was wrong but lacked the ability to know what it was.

Ten days after she disappeared, a police officer in a helicopter saw some bright colored fabric in a field next to a church parking lot. When officers on the ground investigated, they found Karen's decomposing body. Weeks later, after the funeral, which I was unable to attend, the administration got the autopsy and police reports. The Dean of Women was kind enough to tell me personally and give me a copy of a letter to her friends. Karen had taken over 150 over-the-counter medications the morning of that Tuesday. After somehow ingesting all of those pills, she began walking. At some point, the chemicals got to her and she passed out in that field and overdosed. She died alone.

That incident was an impetus to my becoming a teacher of psychology. Those series of events marked a turning point in my life where I could not sit by and watch kids in pain without trying to help in some way. Suicide prevention became an underlying aspect of who I was/am, not just something I went through once.

Conclusions

Please understand that it is harder being a teenager today than before the advent of cell phones and social media and digital cameras. We had it hard. Today's kids have it more difficult than we did. It is just as easy to make one mistake, but we could hide it since it could go only as far as the people we hurt--and how much they verbally shared it

As adults, we need to judge less and be more open to the idea that our kids have experiences that may seem trivial to us. We need to listen more. We need to understand that what we went through is not what kids today are going through. They need help navigating. It is our responsibility to help them when we can.

Watch the show if you are able. If not, be able to tell your kids why you are not able. Share with them your experiences with people you've known who have been depressed, considered or completed suicide. I know the challenges of personal sharing. Keep it professional. Admit that it might hit too close to home and that you do not want to view that kind of show. Just be honest with them. If they choose to open up and share, know how to refer your kids to the professionals who can help them most effectively. If you do not know how to do this, please contact your local campus counselors, your administration, or local city/county mental health agencies for guidance.

I am not a certified mental health expert. My views come from thirty years teaching, 29 years teaching psychology,  professional training sessions in suicide prevention, graduate coursework in teenage depression and suicide, and a graduate degree in education with an emphasis in school counseling.