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Five Questions to Ask Your Teen About ’13 Reasons Why?’

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By now many of us have become aware of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, which is a series depicting the experience of a young teenager who commits suicide. Throughout the series the main character shares the various hurts and traumas she has gone through that leads to her decision to end her life. For many people this has been a troubling show to watch due to its graphic content, which includes a detailed depiction of sexual assault and the process of a completed suicide including the detailed depiction of the character dying through suicide.

Multiple media outlets have highlighted the creators intent to open dialogue surrounding suicide and not to glamorize the process of dying by way of suicide. However, for many the interpretation and impact of the visual content has had varying responses. For some it has been highly triggering and has increased suicidal ideation. For others it has created curiosity and the desire to open communication about suicide.

For all parents even those with the best filters or rules about viewing mature content, chances are your tween or teenager will be exposed to this show in some fashion. Whether viewing it themselves or through interactions with friends and social media, 13 Reasons Why isn’t going away and here are five questions to support you in starting this necessary conversation with your teen or tween.

What do you understand about the show?

Were there aspects of the show that you personally related to?

Is there anything I can do to help support you in understanding the realities of suicide?

Have you ever had thoughts like this yourself? Can you help me understand them?

Is there anything I can do for you?

If you discover your child has struggled with suicidal thoughts or is currently having them, it is important to not dismiss the seriousness of their experiences and these thoughts and to seek out help from licensed professional immediately. Below are resources for parents and children who may be in crisis.

If you feel your child could benefit from further professional help Wasatch Family Therapy is here to serve you.

National Suicide Prevention Life Line 1-800-273-TALK

The Utah Crisis Line 1-801-587-3000

The Trevor Project (LGBTQ Youth) 1-866-488-7386

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How to Help Your Anxious Daughter: Studio 5

How to Help Your Anxious Daughter: Studio 5


All parents want to raise strong, confident, happy daughters, but there’s evidence showing that female adolescents are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety. A recent article in the Deseret News suggests that young women are having a rough time; researchers are seeing anxiety, self-harm, and even suicide in girls as young as 10. In recent years, I have witnessed an increase in the number of referrals of young people (girls and boys) to my therapy practice who are experiencing these same sorts of issues. Clearly, we have a real cultural problem to address, and there’s certainly reason to be concerned.

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When Tragedy Strikes; the Murder-Suicide of a Springville Family: Julie Hanks, LCSW on KSL

On the evening of September 27, 2014, the bodies of Springville, Utah couple Kristi and Benjamin Strack were found dead in their beds. Tragically, their three children were also found dead, and investigators determined the cause of all 5 deaths to be an overdose of lethal drugs.

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What To Do When You Don’t Like Your Child’s Friends: Julie Hanks interview LDS Living


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Have you ever gotten bad vibes from one of your children’s friends? Maybe you felt like he/she was a negative influence or was causing your son or daughter to be unhappy.  It can be hard to know when you as a parent should get involved and when it’s better to just let things be.

Julie Hanks recently offered her views to LDS Living Magazine on how to best handle these situations. Here are a few strategies for what to do when you don’t like your kids’ friends:

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Ask a Therapist: Could Grandfather’s Death Cause Depression?

I saw my grandfather die when I was young and it was very painful because he was like a dad to me. And ever since my grandfather’s death I’ve been having troubles maintaining my relationship with others whether it’s friends or family members. I try to distant myself away from them in fear of getting hurt again. I have trouble letting people in my life and tend to disassociate myself from being involved in a romantic relationship with anyone. As a result, I can’t truly love or care for anyone. Although thinking about my grandfather made me very feel sad and depressed at first, now I’m not as sad as I used to be and I felt guilty for not being sad and I would force myself to think about his death over and over again and make myself feel bad and cry myself to sleep. I also feel pressured by my parents to do well in school and life and it’s almost as if I’m letting them down and becoming that worthless and useless person I was when I stood there and watched my grandfather died. And whenever I feel useless and think I’m such a failure or that I might not live up to other’s expectations, I want to die. I have suicidal thoughts almost everyday and wish I were dead but never actually thought of actually committing a suicide. I also feel irritated very often recently and just want to be left alone. I gave up or got bored of things I used to love doing. This is ruining my life and I think I seriously really need help.

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Ask A Therapist: Can Employers Find Out I’ve Been Hospitalized?

In 2011 I was sent to a Behavioral Center because I tried to kill myself and I was self-harming very badly. I was released after a week and everything was fine. But now I’m trying to get a job and I’ve applied to many, but every time they fill it with someone who applied after me. I know I’m qualified for the jobs, so I’ve been wondering if they could see that I had been sent to the health center if I hadn’t told them? Please and thank you for your time.

A: Thanks so much for writing in. Assuming you’re in the United States, I don’t believe that your employer would have any way of knowing you have been in a behavioral health center. Our privacy laws are very strict and you would have to give permission to the behavioral center to release those records to the employer. For additional thoughts watch my video response.

Take good care of yourself!
Julie Hanks, LCSW

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Ask a Therapist: Is My Friend Really Suicidal or Just Seeking Attention?

I have a friend with severe problems. She’s 16, she is at distance from me. She has claimed to have tried suicide many times, sometimes even talking about committing suicide while I was talking to her. A friend posed the possibility that the suicide attempts were fake, and that she was calling for attention. One, I want to know if it is possible for her to actually want to commit suicide, while announcing it to us. I ask this because a friend of mine insists that suicide is only committed by people who don’t even mention it, or who mention it once and attempt it. Two, if she is attention calling, how can I help her? She is a great friend of mine, and I want to help. She was/is bullied, she’s bisexual, and that already got people to bash on her, she was beaten by her father, and occasionally still is. She cuts herself. Doesn’t eat for large amounts of time, because she thinks she’s fat. She is ignored by her mother, etc. I wonder if it’s also possible that she exaggerated her description of the problems, in order to call for attention.

A: Your friend is lucky to have a concerned friend like you. While you can help, it’s important for you to remember that you can’t save her from her problems. It sounds like your friend could benefit from intensive therapy. Are her parents or extended family members a resource for her to get help? Please encourage her to get a mental health evaluation as soon as possible. You nor I can determine whether she is indeed suicidal, especially in this forum, but a licensed mental health professional can. Watch the video for the complete answer.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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Ask A Therapist: How Do I Know If I Still Need Therapy?

Q: I am a married woman of 24 years with 3 grown children.  I have had a pretty rough past and struggled with mental illness most of my life.  I grew up in a very dysfunctional violent family with an alcoholic parent.  I was abused and neglected.  I attempted suicide at the age of 17.  Through the years I buried my past and attempted to live a normal life.  I did not have an identity, I did what everyone wanted of me, and even believed the beliefs of the people around me. I was an empty shell being filled up by other people.  I had another breakdown in 1999 and attempted suicide again.  That is when I began therapy.  It took me a realy long time to open up to my therapist.  It seemed I got much worse before I got better.  I began cutting and binge eating became  a huge problem.  I had always coped with food but now it brought my weight up to 322lbs.

As the years went by, and with medication I began to slowly deal with issues and start to rise out of my depression.  I trusted my therapist and told her things I would never tell another soul.  I was getting better and I decided to improve my life. I had gastric bypass to lose weight and in the past year I have lost over 120lbs.  I was using good coping skills and having more rational thoughts.   Unfortunately my bones suffered from the weight and degenerative bone desease.  This past October I had a total hip replacement and this past February I had a total knee replacement. It has not been 2 months yet and it has been a slow painful recovery.

My therapist retired this past December.  I do not have a regular one yet, although I did meet with one just one time to feel it out.  I am unsure if I need to stay in therapy.  I have been in it for a very long time and although I am better than ever before, I still have depression and dysfunctional thoughts.  I am still on medication, Wellbutrin, Lexapro and Neurontin for mood disorder.  I have been labeled as PTSD and BPD. I am starting to binge eat again and I am afraid the gastric bypass will be worthless to me someday.  I do not want to gain all that weight back as I could hardly move then.  I feel very sad that my therapist retired and I feel pretty lost right now. Is it normal to be in a therapy program for as long as I have been? Do some people stay in therapy all of their life?  I feel that I will never get out of this dysfunctional rut. Is there hope for me? I am very tired and very afraid to live this way.  I just want relief and to feel a bit of satisfaction in how I live.  I appreciated any input.
Thank you 🙂

A: What a brave women you are to have faced your past trauma and to have actively sought treatment to move toward a healthier and happier life. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to have your therapist retire after working so hard to develop enough trust to open up and share things you’ve never shared with anyone else. It is very normal to feel lost, sad, and to grieve the loss of this therapeutic relationship, just as you would if you said goodbye to a close friend or family member. I imagine that finding a new therapist and developing that trust again is a scary thing to consider, but a necessary one.

Some health problems, like diabetes, are chronic and require lifelong attention, management, and treatment, while others are acute, like strep throat, and generally require one course of antibiotics. Mental illness can be conceptualized in a similar way. Your mental health history, your history of abuse and neglect, and your psychological symptoms seem to fall in the chronic category. It is common for individuals with severe childhood abuse and neglect to be in treatment on and off throughout life to help manage the emotional and psychological consequences of the early experiences.

Your continued struggles with dysfunctional thoughts, depressive symptoms, and binge eating suggest that you need to get back into therapy to maintain the progress you’ve made and to continue to develop coping skills and insight. You may in be in treatment throughout the rest of your life. If that’s what you need to continue to move forward, to manage your symptoms, and continue to create the life you want, then that is nothing to be ashamed of.  You deserve to have nurturing and support.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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