Your students may be talking about the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. Targeted towards a young adult (YA) audience, the show centers around a 17-year-old student, Hannah, who commits suicide and leaves behind messages for the 13 people she deemed responsible.
ADLC encourages teachers to engage in healthy discussion with students on this program should students present it; however, we advise against using this material for instructional purposes.
13 Reasons Why covers topics that may be relevant to the YA experience like photo sharing, gossip, and bullying. It also contains graphic content, depicting sexual assault and suicide.
The content in this show can result in important conversations between teens and their peers or adults. It is imperative that we, as educators and parents, are having conversations with students who are watching this show, and that we carefully consider how we approach these conversations.
Mental health professionals and suicide prevention agencies have highlighted the following concerns:
- Suicide—and, particularly, Hannah’s ability to “communicate” with peers following her suicide—may appear romanticized. When suicide is glorified, or viewed as heroic, it can increase risk for vulnerable populations (see resources below for more).
- Hannah is lacking in support from the people and resources around her that should be able to help her. The series doesn’t show that mental illness can be treated.
- The show’s message may be interpreted to indicate that suicide is an option to get revenge at those who’ve wronged you.
Our school board, Pembina Hills Public Schools has released a post for parents.
For more on this topic, including cautions directed towards youth and guidance for working with vulnerable youth, read “13 Reasons Why” Netfix Series: Considerations for Educators, a resource created by the National Association of School Psychologists.
The JED Foundation, a non-profit that seeks to support emotional health and prevent suicide in teens and young adults has also published their considerations in Netflix 13 Reasons Why: What Viewers Should Consider, and has created a printable list of Talking Points to help stimulate healthy discussion surrounding the series.
Additionally, ADLC’s counsellors have a comprehensive collection of local resources available.