Have you heard of the new Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why? If you haven’t yet heard of it, it’s important to be aware of this trending show and the important conversations that can and should stem from viewing it. The fictional series is based on a novel, also titled 13 Reasons Why, and it profiles the character of Hannah Baker, a 17-year old who commits suicide and leaves behind tapes for 13 people who she says played a role in why she killed herself.
The series has created quite a buzz about suicide and the multiple difficult topics that the show addresses throughout the episodes, including bullying, rape, drunk driving, and slut shaming. Many teenagers are binge watching 13 Reasons Why with little or no adult guidance. When topics as huge and as serious as those in the show are covered, it’s important for adults to be aware of what their children are viewing and talking about. I would highly recommend engaging in conversations with your teen about the show and taking some time to view it yourself, especially if your child has watched or plans to watch the series.
The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) offers up some talking points to guide a conversation:
1. 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.
2. If they exhibit any of the warning signs [making indirect or direct suicide threats; giving away prized possessions; changes in behavior, appearance/hygiene, thoughts, and/or feelings; emotional distress; preoccupation with death], 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
Additionally, they offer some words of caution about the show. The series is intense and teenagers may easily identify with some of what the characters experience in the episodes. It is not recommended that anyone who is vulnerable to suicide watch the show.
Ultimately, the most important take-away from watching 13 Reasons Why and engaging in dialogue about the series should be that suicide is not a solution to problems and that help is available to anyone who may be struggling. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, talk to a trusted adult, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text “START” to 741741.
If you have any concerns about your child or would like additional support in conversing about these topics, please contact your child’s guidance counselor.