13 more reasons…

The second season of the provocative 13 Reasons Why Netflix series was released last week, and although it’s not getting nearly as much attention as the first season, it is still filled with controversy, risk taking behaviors, and guns (lots of guns).  After learning a lesson from last season, this season starts with a substantial trigger warning and ends with another gut-wrenching, hard-to-watch sexual assault scene (and another scene that hit a little too close to home, leaving Netflix to cancel the premiere event).  Where suicide was the focus of the first season, this season focuses a little more on gun violence. So, in honor of National Gun Violence Awareness Day on June 1st (#WearOrange) we’re going to talk a little about guns.

Dr. Allen wrote a fantastic blog about Gun Violence in America in 2015; sadly, not much has changed since that time. Suicide is still the 2nd leading cause of mortality in adolescents and young adults. In fact, hospital visits due to suicidal ideation have doubled from 2008-2015 (and I just read that among children aged 5 to 12years old, black children had a significantly higher incidence of suicide than white children…you read that right, children as young as 5 years old committing suicide). Homicide is still the 3rd leading cause of death in teens and young adults.  Firearms are the top method used in both suicides and homicides.

I feel that I can’t write a blog about gun violence without at least mentioning school shootings (and it is alluded to throughout the second season of 13 Reasons Why; heck one of the characters even looks like one of the Columbine shooters). Media coverage sensationalizes the issue, suggesting that mass shootings, including school shootings, are common.  While they are certainly more common in the U.S. compared to other developed countries, they are actually a small percentage of overall gun violence.  According to the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 4.1% of high school students admit to carrying a weapon (gun, knife, club) on school property in the past month (5.3% admit to carrying a gun in the past month, but not necessarily on school property). 6% of high school students were threatened or injured with a weapon on school property in the past month.  Despite these stats and media coverage, schools are and continue to be one of the safest places for children and adolescents to be (although every time I see news about a new school shooting on the news, a part of me goes into a dark place full of despair. Even one school shooting is one school shooting too many).

It’s hard to do research on gun violence (for a number of reasons, both political and not), therefore it’s hard to say exactly what is the best approach to decrease gun violence (here is an informative article). Although, from a public health perspective, one thing is clear: Guns, if present in the house, are dangerous. If you have guns in the house, make sure they are locked up, and ammunition is stored/locked up separately.

Back to 13 Reasons Why.  Like the first season, this season may serve as a good way to start conversations between the parents and teens (hint – you should watch it together!). In fact, a handy toolkit was developed for both parents and teens (and health care providers and teachers) to help address the topics covered in the series, including sexual assault, consent, bullying, suicide, substance abuse, and gun violence.

To paraphrase the one line that stuck with me through the whole series: There are always more reasons not to do it (suicide, sexual assault, bully, self-harm, drugs, insert risky behavior here). If you have concerns about any risk taking behaviors, make sure to talk to a health care provider.