Last month, the show 13 Reasons Why debuted on Netflix. Based on a fictional novel, the controversial series centers on 17-year-old Hannah Baker, who kills herself and leaves 13 cassette tapes for people whom she blames for playing a part in her suicide. While producers of this show hoped that it might help teenagers struggling with similar issues, the graphic content raises numerous concerns.
How families can address these issues
- Ask your child if they have heard of 13 Reasons Why.
- It is important to watch it so that you are aware of what your child is seeing. Watch with them, if possible.
- People may have similar experiences and thoughts as some of the characters in 13 Reasons Why. People often identify with characters on TV or in movies, but 13 Reasons Why is fictional. It is important to remember that there are healthy ways to cope. Acting on suicidal thoughts is not one of them.
- The school counselor in 13 Reasons Why is not reflective of real school counselors. School counselors take all concerns seriously. Vancouver Public Schools’ counselors are trained to respond appropriately and with compassion.
- Listen to your child without judgment and create an open environment for discussion.
- Suicide is never a heroic or romantic act. Hannah’s suicide, although fictional, is a cautionary tale. It is not meant to appear heroic and should be viewed as a tragedy.
- Talking openly and honestly about emotional distress and suicide is OK. It will not make someone more suicidal or put the idea of suicide in their mind. If you are concerned about someone, ask them about it.
During and after conversations about mental health
- Take all suicide and self-harm threats seriously.
- Ask questions directly and openly. Tell your child what you are noticing and concerned about. Ask your child, “Are you thinking about suicide?”
- Show that you care. Listen and express concerns in a non-judgmental way.
- Take action. Remove weapons from the house. Lock the medicine cabinet.
- Connect with a school counselor. School counselors are trained professionals who respond immediately to safety concerns. If a child expresses suicidal thoughts or actions, parents are notified and given resources.
- Never leave alone a person who is having suicidal thoughts.
- Be persistent and listen to your parental instincts. Watch for sudden changes in appearance, hygiene, behaviors and mood.
- Remember to reach out to others for support.
- Monitor/supervise electronics. Create a parking lot for electronic devices.
- Clark County Crisis Line, available 24/7: 800-626-8137
- National Suicide Hotline, available 24/7 in English and Español: 800-273-8255
- Suicide Text Line: Text “START” to 741-741
- Teen Talk, available Monday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Fridays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.: 360-397-2428
- Immediate response contact: 911
- LGBTQ Youth Suicide Council Hotline: 866-488-7386