Netflix Show ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ Raises Concerns

The Netflix series Thirteen Reasons Why is based on the book that was released 10 years ago. It follows a group of high school students as they follow the story that was left behind for them by their classmate who died by suicide.

The trailer and advertisements for the series can be misleading.   In watching the series, young people and teenagers could perceive the message that suicide is a viable and/or romanticized option. The content of the series is extremely graphic with troubling scenes throughout each episode, which may be difficult for the teenage mind to watch and process in an appropriate way.

The series has some of the following shortcomings:

  • There is no mention of mental health and treatment options, as it references suicide throughout
  • The idea of suicide is romanticized throughout
  • There are no examples of help-seeking by the teens impacted
  • There are several scenes throughout depicting serious trauma, which the teens do not seek help or resources for (i.e., rape, bullying, car accidents, fights, alcoholism, suicide)
  • The series does not express what to do in harmful situations in terms of getting help or utilizing healthy coping skills
  • The series is not meant to be an educational film, and it’s message does not comply with the health recommendations for treating mental health, and/or trauma, or preventing suicide

Please find out if your child has read the book, watched the series, or heard of the series; if they have, please talk with them about it.  We also suggest that you research the series so you understand what your child may be exposed to.  There is a list of talking points included in this correspondence to help with these conversations, as well as a list of resources for your reference.

Thank you for your attention to this very important topic. Should you feel you need more information or support, please contact the school counseling department.

Talking points for Thirteen Reasons Why*:

  • Reassure your youth of your love and support.  Remind your youth that there is no problem too great to be handled.
  • The main character in the series was experiencing an untreated mental health problem. Suicide is not a common response to life’s challenges or adversity. The vast majority of people who experience bullying, the death of a friend, or any other adversity described in Thirteen Reasons Why do not die by suicide. In fact, most reach out, talk to others and seek help or find other productive ways of coping. They go on to lead healthy, normal lives.
  • It is important to know that, there are many treatment options for life challenges, distress and mental illness.  Mental illness is treatable. If you feel like you need support or someone to talk to, reach out. Talk with a friend, family member, a counselor, or therapist. There is always someone who will listen.
  • You may have similar experiences and thoughts as some of the characters in Thirteen Reasons Why. People often identify with characters they see on TV or in movies. However, it is important to remember that there are healthy ways to cope with the topics covered in the series and acting on suicidal thoughts is not one of them.
  • Suicide is never a heroic or romantic act. The main character’s suicide (although fictional) is a cautionary tale, not meant to appear heroic and should be viewed as a tragedy.
  • If you are concerned about someone, ask them about it. It will not make someone more suicidal or put the idea of suicide in their mind. Knowing how to acknowledge and respond to someone who shares their thoughts of emotional distress or suicide with you is important. Don’t judge them or their thoughts. Listen. Be caring and kind. Offer to stay with them. Offer to go with them to get help or to contact a crisis line.
  • When you die, you do not get to make a movie or talk to people any more. Leaving messages from beyond the grave is a dramatization produced in Hollywood and is not possible in real life.
  • The main character’s tapes blame others for her suicide. Suicide is never the fault of survivors of suicide loss. There are resources and support groups for suicide loss survivors.

*Resources:  www.save.org;  www.jedfoundation.org

https://www.save.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/13RW-Talking-Points-Final_v5.pdf

‘13 Reasons Why’ depicts a graphic suicide. Experts say there’s a problem with that.  Washington Post

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2017/04/14/the-problem-with-how-13-reasons-why-treats-suicide/

Local Resources

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.

National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or

Confidential Online-Chat online.rainn.org

The National Sexual Assault Hotline provides 24/7, free and confidential support to sexual assault survivors and their loved ones.

Haven 24/7 Confidential Hotline 603-994-SAFE (7233)

Haven is the local sexual assault/domestic violence agency for our region in NH. The Haven hotline will connect you with a local trained advocate who provides judgment-free emotional support and local referrals for anyone impacted by domestic violence and sexual assault. You DO NOT need to be in crisis to call.

Center for Life Management (centerforlifemanagement.org) **Newton

24/7 Emergency Number 603-434-1577 option 1

CLM provides comprehensive mental health and substance use services, psychiatric treatment, acute care, medication services, emergency intervention, and family support services for adults, children, adolescents and families.

Seacoast Mental Health (smhc-nh.org) 603-772-2710 **Kingston and Fremont

Emergency Services available 24/7 by calling the office at 603-772-2710

Seacoast Mental Health provides comprehensive mental health and substance use services, psychiatric treatment, acute care, medication services, emergency intervention, and family support services for adults, children, adolescents and families in the Seacoast area.

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