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Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” provides an important opportunity to talk about suicide

My husband and I watched each episode of 13 Reasons Why. As someone who cares deeply about helping children and teens who struggle with depression and anxiety and who may feel hopeless (as I did during certain times in my childhood years), I was mesmerized. While it’s often difficult to watch, the messages are powerful.

Now, there are serious concerns that the series glorifies teen suicide. On the other hand, it shines a light on the challenges that teenagers face and how they can internalize rejection, hurt and bullying to a point where they feel hopeless. For both those reasons, I encourage parents, grandparents, foster parents, teachers and social workers to watch it.

The reality is that young people are watching it. As one teacher told me, “They are obsessed with it.” And if they are, we should watch it with them. The more we as adults understand the challenges that children and young people are facing, the better equipped we are to step in when they are in trouble.

This can be a wake-up call to all of us – to be aware of what our students, children, children’s friends are going through….and to reach out if we see signs of depression, anxiety, social isolation. We could be just the lifeline a young person needs.

For those who haven’t heard about or watched the series…Hannah, the main character in 13 Reasons Why, is deeply hurt by her schoolmates and friends, and struggles to find her way – despite being bright, sociable and having loving parents. Tragically, she loses hope in the future and commits suicide. But through a series of pre-recorded tapes made prior to her death, describes how each of them contributed to her anguish (13 reasons why).

The CT Suicide Advisory Board (CTSAB) has provided information to assist you in conversations with others about these very serious and sensitive topics. Their suggestions are:

Suggestions

  • Preview the series prior to permitting youth to view.
  • If you consider the series suitable for youth, watch the series with them.
  • Watch the series companion piece “13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons” on Netflix for a discussion by cast, producers, and mental health professionals about the series.
  • Create a safe, judgment-free zone when talking about the series and the subject matter.
  • Discuss Reasons to Live, and how to stay safe. Who are trusted adults to talk with, and where/how to access help.
  • Review the 13 Reasons Why Talkpoints from Suicide Awareness Voices of Education & The JED Foundation.

Resources

If you or someone you know needs help in CT, call 211 or 1 (800) 273-TALK (8255), the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. In an emergency call 911.

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