Thirteen Reasons Why–Message From the School District

Many students are watching and talking about the Netflix series called Thirteen Reasons Why. The film includes graphic and sensitive issues including rape, bullying and suicide of the main character, Hannah. It is our goal to let students and adults understand that adolescents have other options.

Questions or concerns about suicide are an obvious response to watching the film, and we recommend that students do not watch this film unsupervised. Many mental health and suicide prevention organizations expressed concern about the impact of this series, and have published specific advice for adults and families about watching this show and talking with young viewers.

  • Think carefully about whether or not you choose to watch the show. If you have experienced significant depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts or behaviors in the past, this show may be risky for you to watch.
  • If you choose to watch the show, and you start to feel upset or depressed, are having trouble sleeping, or having thoughts of suicide, stop watching, and tell a parent, trusted adult or counselor. You can also text 741- 741 for confidential, professional help 24/7.
  • If you choose to watch the show, consider watching it with others, and take breaks between episodes instead of binge-watching. It is best to watch with parents or other trusted adults. Discuss what you are seeing and feeling during the show and after.
  • Whether you choose to watch this show or not, we should all work to be caring and vigilant about our family members, friends and ourselves. If you or someone you know is struggling emotionally, or showing signs indicating a possible suicidal crisis, get them (or yourself) to help. Support from trusted friends and family, and professional mental health care when it is needed, saves lives every day.

Youth suicide prevention groups have prepared talking points for discussing suicide awareness with teens, and can be read here. Below are a few highlights:

  • You may have experiences and thoughts similar to some of the characters in Thirteen Reasons Why. It is normal for people to identify with TV or movie characters, but it is important to remember that there are healthy ways to cope with the topics covered in the film. Acting on suicidal thoughts is NOT one of them.
  • Suicide is NEVER heroic or romantic. Hannah’s suicide is fictional, and not meant to appear heroic. It should be viewed as a tragedy.
  • Suicide is NOT a common response to life’s challenges or hardships. The vast majority of people who experience adversities described in Thirteen Reasons Why, like bullying or the death of a friend, do NOT die by suicide. Most reach out, talk to others and seek help, or find other better ways to cope. There are many treatment options.
  • Knowing how to acknowledge and respond to someone who shares their thoughts of emotional distress or suicide is important. Don’t judge them, but listen, be caring and kind. Offer to stay with them, to go with them to get help, or contact a crisis line.

The following is a list of additional resources:

PA Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative (PAYSPI)

If you or someone you know needs immediate help, text 741741, or call 800-273-TALK (8255).