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Suicide Prevention: 13 Reasons Families Must Pay Attention to the Content Netflix is Airing

Dear Families,

We like to keep parents informed about mental health and social media issues impacting our students. Recently we became aware of a new Netflix series called “Thirteen Reasons Why.” We understand that many students are watching and talking about this series, which includes graphic and sensitive issues including rape, bullying and suicide of the main character Hannah. We recognize that there might be students who identify with some of Hannah’s issues/struggles and her choice to end her life. We need students and adults to know and understand that adolescents have other options. There are always ways to seek assistance and make a situation better. Some young people might misunderstand the message and believe that suicide is the only logical option.

We are concerned about the questions and feelings this series may raise with students, especially if they are watching it unsupervised. They may need to talk to you about it. Many mental health and suicide prevention organizations were concerned about the impact of this series and have published specific advice for adults and families about watching this show and talking with young viewers.

Here are some considerations that parents or adults can talk to youth about watching the show:

  • 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 it and tell a parent, trusted adult or counselor. You can also text start to 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 would be especially good 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 of 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.

Here are talking points that parents or adults can use to discuss the show with teens. The entire list of talking points can be found here (developed by youth suicide prevention groups: Suicide Awareness Voices of  Education and JED). Below are a few highlights:

  • You may have experiences and thoughts similar to those of some of the characters in 13RW.  It is typical 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 13RW.  Acting on suicidal thoughts is NOT one of them.
  • Suicide is NEVER heroic or romantic.  Hannah’s suicide is fictional.  It is a story warning us. It is, 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 13RW 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, and treatment works. They go on to lead healthy, normal lives.
  • Knowing how to acknowledge and respond to someone who shares with you their thoughts of emotional distress or suicide is important. Don’t judge them or their thoughts. Listen, be caring and kind. Offer to stay with them. Offer to go with them to get help, or contact a crisis line.

Additional Resources you might find helpful:

PA Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative (PAYSPI)

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

Our goal is to keep the health and well-being of all our students in mind.  Suicide affects everyone and we want parents to be a part of the solution to prevent it. We are available to assist you, should you have questions.

Suicide is preventable.
The School District of Philadelphia

Last modified: June 1, 2017