Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” based on the young adult novel by Jay Asher, has initiated a lot of discussion surrounding teenage mental health. In the series and book, the teenage characters learn about their classmate’s reasons for dying by suicide after her death. The series has proved popular with teenagers and been renewed for a second season.
There is concern in the suicide prevention community that the series glamorizes suicide, sends detrimental messages about mental health, and could be triggering, especially for young people. The series graphically depicts suicide, rape, survivor’s guilt, and other emotionally complex topics that students may not be prepared to process on their own.
District counseling staff want to provide West Des Moines Community Schools families with resources to support discussions about suicide, trauma, and the “13 Reasons Why” series. Please let your school staff and counselors know if there are other ways we can be of assistance to your family.
13 Resources for Talking About “13 Reasons Why”
Tips and Talking Points
- “Thirteen Reasons Why Talking Points” from SAVE and the Jed Foundation
- “Tips for Parents for Talking with Their Children About 13 Reasons Why and Suicide” from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- “Netflix 13 Reasons Why: What Viewers Should Consider” from the Jed Foundation
- “‘13 Reasons Why’ Netflix Series: Considerations for Educators” from the National Association of School Psychologists
- “Teachable Moment Using “13 Reasons Why” to Initiate a Helpful Conversation About Suicide Prevention and Mental Health” Video from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the American School Counselor Association, and the National Association of School Psychologists
- “Preventing Youth Suicide” and “Preventing Youth Suicide: Tips for Parents & Educators” from the National Association of School Psychologists
Also remember to make sure your children have access to local and national crisis resources:
- Your Life Iowa Hotline: 1-855-8111 (24/7)
- Your Life Iowa Text Line: Text “TALK” to 855-895-TEXT (8398) (2-10 p.m. daily)
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (available 24/7)
- ReachOut USA
- Download the free “A Friend Asks” app from the Jason Foundation
You may also be interested in:
- “13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons” (on Netflix)
- “Prevention: The Critical Need” by Jack Pransky (a great book that addresses this topic and more)
Open discussions between adults and young people are a powerful way to help students see problems through a different lens. When talking with young people about suicide, remember to focus on wholeness and well-being, rather than on fear. Encourage them to see the feelings they’re experiencing as a storm cloud: noticeable but temporary. Remind them they can make it through the rain.
Thank you to our district counselors for their assistance with this post.