Kim Khazei talks to father who lost son to suicide about Netflix series ’13 Reasons Why’

BOSTON (WHDH) - It’s the controversial Netflix drama people are talking about. “13 Reasons Why”- a show about teen suicide.

“The message to me that young people might have received from this is, well it’s no big deal if you die. No it is, it’s a big deal, said Steve Boczenowski.

He knows the reality of suicide.

“I will never be the same since I lost my son. I am a different person now than I was.”

Twenty-one-year-old Jeffrey Boczenowski, who loved basketball and playing the drums, took his own life in 2009. His dad struggles with that loss every day.

“The pain never goes away,” said Bocenowski.

Now he fears other young people could be at risk after watching the show. The popular series tells the story of a girl who kills herself and leaves audio tapes for the 13 people she believes led her to suicide.

“Why don’t you think a kid should watch it?” asked Kim Khazei

“I think it sends the wrong messages. They did not talk about mental health at all. The stats are that 90 percent of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental illness and there’s no talk about that at all. Then there’s the glorification of the whole story. We have to be careful when we’re talking about this that we don’t glorify a person who has died,” said Boczenowski.

Singer Selena Gomez is the executive producer of the series. She has been open about her own mental health issues and has taken to Instagram to defend the show, saying:

“It’s a story of what every kid does and will continue to go through – unless we keep talking about it.”

“I think it is, you know, spurring discussion and that’s good to a certain extent but the discussion has to be a healthy and informed discussion and my concern is that it’s not really healthy and informed,” said Bozcenowski.

“So as a parent who’s lost someone, lost Jeffrey, how do you know? When it’s serious, and it’s not just a teenage stage?” asked Kim Khazei.

“Trust your own instincts, you know your child better than anybody else, and if you’re concerned about your child, if you think things arent quite right with your child, go and get help, it’s harmless to get help for your child. I love my son. In a lot of ways he was a really, really wonderful person. He had an illness and it killed him,” said Bozcenowski.

Bozcenowski is an advocate with the Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention and established a non-profit to help teens with anxiety and depression- TADS.

If your teen wants to watch the Netflix series, mental health professionals say,

— Watch it with them. Don’t let them watch it alone.
— Give your opinion of certain ways the characters react to difficult situations.
— Skip over the more disturbing parts.
— Talk with your child’s friends and their parents about the show and whether anyone might be struggling.

Warning signs of suicide:
• talking about wanting to die
• looking for a way to kill oneself
• talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
• talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
• talking about being a burden to others
• increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
• acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
• sleeping too little or too much
• withdrawing or feeling isolated
• showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
• displaying extreme mood swings

The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. Warning signs are associated with suicide but may not be what causes a suicide.

What to do if someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide:
• do not leave the person alone; be compassionate and listen
• remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt
• call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
• take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional

If you are feeling isolated or despairing, you can call or text Samaritans statewide helpline, 24/7 at 1-877-870-HOPE (4673)

Samaritans Hope website

Clinical Services at McLean Hospital

Mental Health Services at Franciscan Children’s

Riverside Trauma Center

Teenage Anxiety and Depression Solutions

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Chapter of Greater Boston

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