10 May 2017

Guidance for Parents: “13 Reasons Why”


Dear Parents + Guardians

You probably already know that this Netflix series is currently very topical and some students are watching it.  It is based on a book about Hannah Baker, a high school student who dies by suicide and leaves behind audiotapes about the events that led to her death. In each tape, she essentially blames her death on the actions (or inaction) of a group of peers, and a teacher.

We wanted to make you aware that the graphic scene of Hannah’s death and the premise of the narrative, is contrary to the way psychologists and counsellors believe suicide should be discussed with adolescents.

The series has very mature themes with some violent scenes. If your daughter/son is watching this, we strongly encourage you to review it, to decide whether it is appropriate for her/him, and so you can have thoughtful discussion with your child about it. Here are some suggested talking points for you from the JED Foundation:

  • People often identify with characters they see on TV or in movies. However, it is important to remember that there are healthy ways to cope with the topics covered in 13 Reasons Why and acting on suicidal thoughts is not one of them.
  • Suicide is not a common response to life’s challenges or problems. The vast majority of people who experience bullying, the death of a friend, or any other trauma described in 13 Reasons Why do not die by suicide. In fact, most reach out, talk to others and seek help or find other productive ways of coping. They go on to lead healthy, normal lives
  • Suicide is never a heroic or romantic act. Hannah’s suicide (although fictional) is a cautionary tale, not meant to appear heroic.  It should be viewed as a tragedy.
  • It is important to know that, in spite of the portrayal of a serious treatment failure in 13 Reasons Why, there are many treatment options for life challenges, distress and mental illness. Treatment works.
  • Suicide affects everyone and everyone can do something to help if they see or hear warning signs that someone is at risk of suicide. Talking openly and honestly about emotional distress and suicide is OK. It will not make someone more suicidal or put the thought in their mind
  • Knowing how to acknowledge and respond to someone who shares their thoughts of emotional distress or suicide with you 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 to contact a counsellor.
  • How the counsellor in 13 Reasons Why responds to Hannah’s thoughts of suicide is not appropriate and not typical of most counsellors. Student counsellors are professionals and a trustworthy source for help.
  • When someone dies, there is no possibility that person can make a movie or talk to people any more. Leaving messages from beyond the grave is a dramatisation produced in Hollywood and is not possible in real life.

We hope these suggestions are helpful.  We have an excellent team of counsellors who are available to help with any questions relating to this, or other social, emotional and psychological issues.

Warm wishes

Christine Rowlands

Vice Principal