I recently learned about the Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why. You may have too — perhaps from a Facebook post, a parent-friend, or from your child. Because of teenagers’ draw to this graphic depiction of another’s life, many parents, educators, and counselors are talking about 13 Reasons Why and asking important questions: “Is my child watching it?”, “Should I allow my child to watch it?”, “Should I ask my child about it?”, “What should I say?”

13 Reasons Why is an intense Netflix drama that is definitely not a “light watch” for middle school scholars. The series is about a student who has received cassette tapes from a classmate who has recently committed suicide. Each tape has detailed accounts and reasons why she killed herself. The shows explore suicide, rape, bullying, depression, and anxiety in teens. They also show the extreme consequences of bystanders who stay quiet when they see horrible acts. These are complex issues that can be confusing and extremely concerning for impressionable viewers. One of the top concerns about the show is that the status of suicide may get elevated. However, the show does present us with an opportunity to talk to teens about suicide and other prevalent issues.

We’re aware that many McAuliffe scholars are watching 13 Reasons Why and are talking with their peers and teachers about the show. I’ve provided our crew leaders with some questions and talking points they can use when students bring up the show. I also recommend that you talk with your child about the show, especially if your child has watched it already.  In fact, if your child has watched it and you haven’t, watch it. And if you’re considering allowing your scholar to watch 13 Reasons Why, watch it together and then talk about the issues that the show brings up. Here are links to resources that may be useful for teachers as well as parents/guardians:

  1. 5 Conversations to Have with Your Teens After “13 Reasons Why”
  2. How to Talk to a Teen Who is Watching ‘13 Reasons Why’
  3. 7 Essential Discussion Questions for “13 Reasons Why”
  4. National Association of School Psychologist Resource Guide

In addition, Newton Cultural Center will be hosting a community conversation about the series on Wed., May 24. Click here for more information.

There are also a few things I want to be sure you know about suicide and self-injurious behaviors:

  • If you feel your scholar needs support, please reach out to us. Our school counselors are available to meet with your child. If your scholar needs to talk to a school counselor, please call the school at 508-879-9000.
  • If your child makes reference to hurting him/herself or killing him/herself, call Advocates Crises Center which provides support to the MetroWest area. They can be reached at 800-640-5432. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text “START” to 741741.
  • If your child reports that a friend has made comments about hurting or killing him/herself, please report this to the school so that we can follow up with the student and his/her family. Thank you for taking the time to learn and to discuss these difficult topics with you child.