This is the email sent from Counselor Jacob Jones to all DLS Parents about the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why.
I am reaching out to you with a cautionary note and resources to help you negotiate through conversations regarding the trending Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, which is based on a young adult novel of the same name (2007). The series revolves around the fictional story of 17-year-old Hannah Baker, who takes her own life and leaves behind audio recordings for 13 people who she says in some way were part of why she killed herself. Each tape recounts painful events in which one or more of the 13 individuals played a role. In addition to suicide, the show also addresses a number of other difficult topics (in graphic detail), such as bullying, rape, drunk driving, and slut shaming. These are very real issues, and there are some valuable lessons to be learned from the show regarding how our actions impact others. However, it is also necessary to differentiate between a TV drama and real life.
According to the National Association of School Psychologists, producers for the show say they hope the series can help those who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide. However, the series, which many teenagers are binge watching without adult guidance and support, is raising concerns from suicide prevention experts about the potential risks posed by the sensationalized treatment of youth suicide. What the series does accurately convey is that there is no single cause of suicide. Indeed, there are likely as many different pathways to suicide as there are suicide deaths. However, the series does not emphasize that common among most suicide deaths is the presence of treatable mental illnesses. Suicide is not the simple consequence of stressors or coping challenges, but rather, it is most typically a combined result of treatable mental illnesses and overwhelming or intolerable stressors.
Several professional organizations, including the National Association of School Psychologists, have expressed concern, and have developed
Please take time to review these and be prepared to discuss the series with your children. The show has gained a great deal of popularity, and we all need be prepared to have meaningful conversations regarding the misinformation, normalization and glorification of suicide, drug abuse, and bullying that this show depicts.
Vulnerable youth, youth with a history of suicidal thoughts or attempts, youth with family history of suicide, youth who have been bullied or bully, youth who are marginalized in school or their community may be at heightened risk for suicidal thoughts or actions. Do not hesitate to ask them directly if they have thoughts of suicide/killing themselves (this will not put the thought in their mind). If they do or you are concerned they may be suicidal, get help; your local crisis center has resources for you or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK).
Please feel free to contact myself or any of the counselors in the counseling office if you have concerns or questions.