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Has your high school or college student watched “13 Reasons Why,” a new series recently released on Netflix based on the novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, or are you hearing/reading a lot about the series on social media?
The series is getting a lot of buzz and also creating concern. It's about events unfolding in the lives of a group of teens following the suicide of a girl in their high school, Hannah. Before killing herself, she taped her reasons — a mystery to many — and had the tapes delivered to a friend. Each of the 13 episodes explores one tape/reason/individual in her life who let her down. Playing out in present time and flashbacks, there are graphic scenes of sexual assault, bullying and ultimately suicide.
Does the series glamorize or romanticize suicide? In many school districts, letters are going home to families warning about the series and its potential impacts. Here is a news story explaining the controversy as well as a link to a Vanity Fair interview with one of the series writers who feels that, on the contrary, exploring the topic openly may help prevent suicide.
If your teen or college student is watching the series, you may want to tune in to an episode or two as well. The Jed Foundation, dedicated to supporting mental health and preventing suicide among young adults, has created talking points for the friends and families of teens and young adults.
As always with challenging subjects, it's a good idea to try to have ongoing conversations with our teen and young adult children. High school counselors and interventionists, and college/university counseling centers, welcome phone calls from concerned parents. Although your college student’s health information is confidential, the counseling center can receive messages of concern from you and share general mental health information.
Dr. Victor Schwartz, Medical Director of the Jed Foundation, wrote “Your College Student’s Mental Health — Know When to Get Involved” for CollegiateParent and we encourage all family members of college students to read it, even if your student did not enter school with a pre-existing mental health concern.