13 Reasons Why

   Written by on May 4, 2017 at 10:10 am
Cheryl Gowin and Dennis Gowin.  Call us at our counseling practice with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions at 434-808-2637.

Cheryl Gowin and Dennis Gowin.  Call us at our counseling practice with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions at 434-808-2637.

Have you seen the headlines?

• School Chief Says Series Is Prompting Students To Harm Themselves

• School Superintendent:  Students Are Harming Themselves Citing ‘13 Reasons Why’

• State Largest School District Warns Parents About Popular Netflix Series

• Vulnerable Kids Shouldn’t Watch ‘13 Reasons Why,’ School Says

These headlines reflect a growing concern about the Netflix series ‘13 Reasons Why’.  School district officials from Minnesota to Florida have emailed parents warning that the show offers a problematic depiction of high school and romanticizes suicide.  This reaction is happening not only in the U.S. but also across the globe.  New Zealand created a new rating (RP18) for the show.  This rating requires that anyone under 18 watch the program only with a parent or guardian present.  Why?

The series, based on a book by the same name, tells the story of the suicide of a 17-year-old girl, Hannah Baker.  Hannah leaves audio recordings for 13 people she felt responsible for her death.

The complaints given by experts about the series are many.  The series represents Hannah’s death as a logical and unavoidable outcome caused by the events of her life.  The show ignores the relationship between suicide and mental illness.  It presents rape as a reason to commit suicide, sending the wrong message to survivors of sexual violence about their futures and their worth.  The scene detailing Hannah’s suicide is graphic and explicit.  The suicide scene is instructional to vulnerable teens.  The series raises valid questions about issues facing teenagers but fails to either answer or fully address the issues.

The National Association of School Psychologists issued a warning about the series, pointing out that exposure to depictions of suicidal acts is a risk factor for troubled teens.  Ok, so you now have read all the warnings.  However, the series is popular among teenagers; as a parent what do you do?

Use this as an opportunity to gain a better understanding of your teen’s experiences, thoughts, and feelings.  If your teen watches the series, help him/her process the issues presented in the series.  Tell your teen, you’d like to watch it with him/her.  Don’t be afraid to ask if they have thoughts about suicide.  Raising the issue of suicide does not increase the risk or plant the idea of suicide.  On the contrary, it creates the opportunity to offer help.  Ask your teen if they think any of their friends are thinking about hurting themselves.  Talk with your teen about how to get help for a friend or classmate.  Listen to your teen’s comments without judgment.  Get help from a mental health professional if you are concerned for your teen’s safety.

The message your teen should be hearing is suicide is never a solution.  It is an irreversible choice involving a temporary problem.  There is help.  He or she should know how to reach help if he/she or a friend is struggling with thoughts of suicide.  Your teen should be encouraged to talk with you, the school counselor, your pastor or a professional counselor about how they feel.  Let your teen know you care about them.  Encourage your teen to talk about their concerns.  Remind them to never promise to keep secret a friend’s comment about harming themselves.

Suicide can be prevented.  People considering suicide typically say something or do something that is a warning sign.  Always take warning signs seriously.  Suicide threats, verbal, written, or posted online, both direct (I am going to kill myself) and indirect (I wish I could fall asleep and never wake up) should be addressed.  Another warning sign is suicide planning or preoccupation with death.  In addition, changes in behavior, appearance, hygiene, thoughts, or feelings can be a sign.

The SAVE.org website at https://www.save.org/13 reasons why/ provides a flyer to help you understand the Netflix series and the realities of suicide.  Talk with your teen; let him or her know that you care.  If a teen is struggling with thoughts of suicide, get help immediately by calling 1 800 273 TALK (8255) or text START to 741741.  Suicide is a serious issue, but there is help available.

Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will support you.  Psalms 55:22

Call us with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions; our phone number is 434-808-2637.

About Cheryl & Dennis Gowin

Cheryl Gowin, Counselor and Dennis Gowin, Director of Discovery Counseling Center. Contact us with your feedback, comments, issues or questions at 434-808-2426 or dgowin@discoverycounseling.org.

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