Below is a note that has been shared with families at AES through email regarding recent concerns over a netflix series titled 13 Reasons Why.
Dear Parents of Middle and High School Students,
This is a special note to bring to your attention a new series on Netflix, 13 Reasons Why. This series, based on the young adult novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, tells the story of a high school student who commits suicide—leaving behind audio tapes aimed at people she believes have had a role in her death. While we are aware that some students have already watched the series, we do not recommend it. The graphic depiction of death by suicide is disturbing, and the message the series sends—which can be interpreted to romanticize suicide—has raised alarm among many youth-oriented organizations. On the other hand, it is important for caring adults to be sensitive to the discouragement, sadness, and hopelessness that may lead some students to consider suicide as an option.
We have listed resources, including the warning signs of suicide and student distress, on the blogs of the high school and middle school counselors. In addition, please know that the counselors at the middle and high schools, Mr. Doug Asher (email@example.com), Mr. Jonathan Webster (firstname.lastname@example.org), Ms. Cristina Alcoz (email@example.com), Ms. Anna Sattler (firstname.lastname@example.org), Dr. Justin Walker (email@example.com), and the AES school psychologist, Dr. Jan Cantrill (firstname.lastname@example.org), are resources for you and ready to help.
U.S. National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 001-800-273-TALK (8255)
India Suicide Hotline (Aasra): 022-27546669
South Korea Suicide Helpline: +82-2-715 8600
Step Up Program (Depression and suicide awareness and prevention)
Suicide Warning Signs (source: http://www.nasponline.org/):
- Suicide threats, both direct and indirect. For example, “I’m going to kill myself” or “I wish I could fall asleep and never wake up”). Threats can be verbal or written, and are often found in online postings.
- Giving away prized possessions.
- Preoccupation with death in conversation, writing, drawing, and social media.
- Changes in behavior, appearance/hygiene, thoughts, and/or feelings.
- Emotional distress.
Guidance for Families (source: http://www.nasponline.org/):
- 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 that if they do want to watch it, that you want to watch it with them and then discuss the movie.
- If your child exhibits 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 plan the idea. On the contrary, it creates the opportunity to offer help.
- As your child if they think any of their friends or classmates exhibit warning signs. Talk to 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 child’s comments without judgement. 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.
13 Reasons Why Talking Points (adapted from https://www.jedfoundation.org)
- You may have similar experiences and thoughts as some of the characters in the series. 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 13 Reasons Why and acting on suicidal thoughts is not one of them.
- If you have watched the show and feel like you need support or someone to talk to, reach out. Talk with a friend, family member, a counselor, or a therapist. There is always someone who will listen.
- 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 the series do not die by suicide. In fact, most reach out, talk to others and seek help or find productive ways of coping. They go on to lead healthy, normal lives.
- Suicide is never a heroic or romantic act. Hannah’s suicide (although fictional) is a cautionary tale, not meant to appear heroic and is more appropriately viewed as a tragedy.
- It is important to know that, in spite of the portrayal of a serious treatment failure in the series, there are many treatment options for life challenges, distress, and mental illness. Treatment works.
- How the school counselor in 13 Reasons Why responds to Hannah’s thoughts of suicide is not appropriate and not typical of most counselors. If your experience with a school counselor is unhelpful, seek other sources of support such as a crisis line.
- When you die you do not get to make a movie or talk to people any more. Leaving message from beyond the grave is a dramatization produced in Hollywood and is not possible in real life.
- Memorializing someone who died by suicide is not a recommended practice. Decorating someone’s locker who died by suicide and/or taking selfies in front of such a memorial is not appropriate and does not honor the life of the person who died by suicide.
- Hannah’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.