Caution to parents about Netflix series '13 Reasons Why'

The Netflix series 13 Reasons Why is about a 17 year-old woman who commits suicide, leaving behind audio recordings for the 13 people she claims were responsible for her suicide. Many of our students are watching the show outside of school and are talking about it. The show contains some material that may be relevant to their own experiences such as photo sharing, gossip, bullying, etc., but it is also incredibly graphic - including images of her suicide, rape scenes and sexual assault. While these are very important topics, children will probably benefit from guidance to process what they have viewed.

Mental health professionals and suicide prevention agencies have expressed these concerns about the show:

  • The glamorization/glorification of suicide, and the young woman's ability to "communicate" with peers and friends after she has passed.
    Research shows an increased risk and copycat behaviour when a suicide is romanticized, seen as heroic, or as stemming from very simple problems or causes.
  • A lack of support from resources the young woman should have been able to trust, and the lack of suggestion that mental illness and trauma can be treated.
  • The idea that suicide might be used as "revenge" or "getting back at" people in the victim's life.

What parents can do
Parents may want to discuss the show with their child, however it would be helpful to prepare themselves. Before talking to their child, we encourage parents to read these resources from the JED Foundation and the ATA Council for School Counsellors.

Guidance for Families — excerpt from the ATA resource 13 Reasons Why: Resource for Educators

  • Ask your child if they have heard or seen the series 13 Reasons Why. While we don’t recommend that they be encouraged to view the series, do tell them you want to watch it, with them or to catch up, and discuss their thoughts.
  • If they exhibit any of the warning signs above, don’t be afraid to ask if they have thought about suicide or if someone is hurting them. Raising the issue of suicide does not increase the risk or plant the idea. On the contrary, it creates the opportunity to offer help.
  • Ask your child if they think any of their friends or classmates exhibit warning signs. Talk with them about how to seek help for their friend or classmate. Guide them on how to respond when they see or hear any of the warning signs.
  • Listen to your children’s comments without judgment. Doing so requires that you fully concentrate, understand, respond, and then remember what is being said. Put your own agenda aside.
  • Get help from a school-employed or community-based mental health professional if you are concerned for your child’s safety or the safety of one of their peers.

For more information contact your school or any of the following agencies:
Barrhead Community Health Services - 780-674-8243, 1-877-303-2642 (24 hr Help Line)
Westlock Community Health Services - 780-349-5246, 1-877-303-2642 (24 hr Help Line)
Alberta Mental Health Help Line - 1-877-303-2642 (24 hr)
Kid’s Help Phone - 1-800-668-6868

Published May 1, 2017