by Jillian Schuh, PhD – Catalpa Health
A new Netflix series, “13 Reasons Why,” has received significant attention in both mainstream and social media for its depiction of teen suicide and mental health. Since its release, there has been much controversy. Proponents praise the series for creating dialogue around suicide, and critics express concern for its portrayal of suicide as a solution without discussion of prevention or seeking of mental health intervention.
Bullying, trauma, depression, and suicide are real issues for teens. Media portrayal of these situations can help to reduce stigma, but it is also essential that audiences learn facts surrounding mental health and options for treatment. Viewing suicide as heroic or an opportunity for revenge is concerning.
Caregivers and adolescents are encouraged to discuss these topics, particularly suicidal ideation, openly as a family. “13 Reasons Why” is rated TV MA, meaning that it is designed to be viewed by adults; it may not be suitable for children under 17 due to graphic depictions of suicide and sexual trauma, as well as mature language.
Catalpa Health urges caregivers to think critically about the impact this can have on their teens, particularly those who are more impressionable or in vulnerable situations where they may be experiencing suicidal ideation and/or depression. Young viewers are encouraged to contemplate whether watching this show is an appropriate choice for them. Should they decide to watch, they are encouraged to view it with a family member or trusted adult. Talking points to assist caregivers, teachers, and teens in specifically discussing the series can be found here.
Whether you may be considering watching or have already viewed “13 Reasons Why,” the links below can be helpful in gaining perspective about the series, learning a better understanding of the cautions, and fostering positive and open conversation. No one is ever truly alone, and there are effective treatments for preventing suicide and alleviating mental illness.
Our final message to teens, families, and the community is to care for each other and ourselves, seek help when in pain, and never worry alone. Support from friends, family, and mental health professionals saves lives every day.
If you ever become concerned about the safety or welfare of yourself, a friend, or family member, please reach out to those who can help.
American Psychiatric Association – 13 Mental Health Questions about “13 Reasons Why”
- Provides 13 answers to important questions surrounding depression, anxiety, and suicide.
National Association of School Psychologists – “13 Reasons Why” Netflix Series: Considerations for Educators
- Cautions and guidance for educators and their families, along with safe, positive messaging for students.
The JED Foundation – Netflix 13 Reasons Why: What Viewers Should Consider
- Considerations, discussion points, and other resources surrounding “13 Reasons Why”
Post-Crescent – Netflix Series “13 Reasons Why” Sparks Concern
- Local coverage from area experts regarding the series