We wanted you to be aware of a new series on Netflix called 13 Reasons Why. It has come to our attention that some of our students have seen this series or are planning to do so in the near future. This letter is not intended to encourage you or your child to watch the series.
You may have watched the series and/or read the April 21, 2017 Chicago Tribune commentary by Jack VanNoord. The series centers on an adolescent girl’s suicide and the thirteen cassette tapes she leaves behind detailing the reasons why she took her life. The show deals with mature themes, including sexual assault and suicide that are vividly portrayed in the series. As a result, the series is not appropriate for some viewers, particularly young teens and/or those whom have struggled with mental illness, self-injury or thoughts of suicide, and minimally should not be watched without accompanying dialogue and/or intervention from parents or other trusted adults.
While the show is starting conversations on topics that are typically difficult to talk about, there are some blatant shortcomings in its execution, as noted by suicide prevention experts.
- The show simplifies suicide and perpetuates the idea that suicide has someone to blame. It further links suicide to specific causes such as bullying, when suicide is most commonly the result of underlying mental illness, particularly depression.
- It misses a crucial opportunity to provide education around mental illness or sexual assault and harassment.
- There are no examples affirming successful help-seeking, and there is an unfortunate scene in which the main character reaches out to a school counselor who does not offer hope, compassion or resources.
- There are no scenes that highlight any of the characters reaching out to talk with their parents or counselors, despite having a difficult time coping with a peer’s suicide.
- Whenever possible, let your child begin the conversation.
- If you need to prompt the conversation, try asking a simple but specific question (instead of something broad like “How was your day”).
- When they do start talking, LET THEM TALK - don’t interrupt, criticize or lecture.
- Give your full attention.
- If your child brings up a problem, resist the urge to dictate a solution. Instead, listen and then ask how you can help.
The National Association of School Psychologists has prepared a helpful resource for parents and educators, 13 Reasons Why Netflix series: Considerations for educators, which we encourage parents to read. Additionally, here are two additional resources you may find helpful: Preventing Youth Suicide: Brief Facts and Tips and Preventing Youth Suicide: Tips for Parents & Educators.
As always, if you have a specific concern about his/her child, please contact our school's Student Services office and ask to speak to a school counselor, social worker or psychologist.