The Netflix series “Thirteen Reasons Why” has started many conversations around mental health and suicide prevention among educators, school counselors, and school administrators. It’s also caused some painful memories to flare up for students or adults who have struggled with mental health issues. The series is based on the book by Jay Asher, a book that I read a few years ago in basically one long sitting (interrupted by some sleep and a few hours of track practice) after noticing a lot of my students reading it. I enjoyed the book and I recently watched the series, which I also enjoyed. However, I was surprised at some of the things they decided to include in the series. The Netflix series is more graphic in nature and expands upon events in the book (which takes place in only one night) over a series of days and weeks. There is a lot more detail and more graphic depictions of events than in the book, which is why the series is generating a lot of buzz that the book did not.
Netflix shows can be watched by teenagers at any time, on their phones, tablets, computers, or TV. Often, teenagers will watch alone or a few friends, but not their parents. I understand the increase of concern based on this one series, but I would hope that this will make parents and educators more aware of what their teenagers/students are accessing on their own time, whether it be from Netflix, YouTube, books, etc. It is increasingly more difficult for adults to keep an eye on the media their teenagers are consuming. And, as always: why does it take a major television show to promote discussion around sensitive topics that have always been areas of concern? But, conversations and awareness are good, so I guess that’s another topic for another day…
Many local school districts have proactively sent information home to families about the television show with the goals of informing parents of its content and providing talking points for adults to use when discussing the show with their children. As I write this post, my district has not yet done so. Since starting my program to obtain administrative licensure, I’ve found myself thinking about how I would respond to different things as an administrator. For me, this is the perfect opportunity for collaboration among multiple components of the WSCC Model: in particular the components of health education, counseling, psychological, & social services, health services, social & emotional environment, and community involvement. Assembling a school wellness team, with support from central office and other community members, can help in determining how to be proactive when handling a topic like this. This is an opportunity to connect with their students and their families while they are paying attention to a very important topic: we cannot lose this opportunity! Unfortunately, many districts will remain silent.
Below you’ll find a list of resources that have been sent my way that may be helpful in discussing “Thirteen Reasons Why” with teenagers. These were obtained from multiple resources: my school psychologist, the CTAPE email list, and my PLN on Twitter/social media. I haven’t fully examined all of them, but a link and brief description is provided. I hope these links are helpful to you! Thank you to those who have been sharing their resources with others!
Netflix 13 Reasons Why: What Viewers Should Consider (The JED Foundation). Information viewers should consider before and while watching the show.
13 Reasons Why: Talking Points (The JED Foundation). The talking points mentioned in the resource linked above.
13 Reasons Why: Considerations for Educators (National Association of School Psychologists). Guidance for educators and students, with additional resources for more information.
In Response to 13 Reasons Why (To Write Love on Her Arms). A perspective from the founder of an organization helping individuals with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide.
What Parents Should Know About 13 Reasons Why (Riverside Trauma Center). Information for parents and recommendations about conversations to have with their adolescent children.
“This Is What’s Missing From ’13 Reasons Why’” (Teen Vogue). An op-ed writer explains the red flags they noticed in the series.
Risk Factors & Warning Signs (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention). A list of warning signs and risk factors for suicide.
Netflix Series ’13 Reasons Why’ Has Parents, Mental Health Experts, and Educators Worried (Good School Hunting). Erika Sanzi writes from the perspective of a parent and a former educator.
7 Essential Discussion Questions for “13 Reasons Why” (We Are Teachers). Questions educators can use should the series come up while conversing with students.