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Educators, students speaking out about Netflix series ’13 Reasons Why’

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ESSEX – The new Netflix show, "13 Reasons Why," has many people giving reasons why they support or are against the series.

The new drama, adapted from a book, is the story behind a high schoolers decision to take her own life, leaving behind audio tapes to explain why.

Since its release at the end of March, it has generated mixed reviews, some saying it shines a light to the signs of suicide, others saying it sensationalizes it.

Many educators, including the Regional School District #4 Superintendent Dr. Ruth Levy, are reaching out to parents to bring awareness to teens watching the show.

Levy emailed this message to parents:

Dear All:
I received the following message from the Connecticut Suicide Prevention Board (CTSAB) regarding the Netflix Series : 13 Reasons Why, and want to pass along their guidance to you.
Many students watch this series which graphically depicts teen suicide. The concern is that the show sensationalizes suicide. Please read the message below from the CTSAB.
Sincerely,
Dr. Levy

An urgent message from the CT Suicide Advisory Board (CTSAB):

The Netflix original series "13 Reasons Why", based on a popular novel of the same name, was released on March 31 and has been much talked about, particularly among school-aged youth. The fictional story is a cautionary tale of a young girl's suicide, and covers other sensitive subject matters as the series progresses such as sexual abuse, rape, substance abuse, mental health, and bullying. The show sensationalizes suicide, focuses on reasons to die vs. reasons to live, and blames survivors, all of which can easily trigger at risk individuals.

Due to the popularity and the subject matter of the series, many national and state organizations have created resources to assist adults in talking with individuals at risk, especially youth, about suicide as it relates to the situational drama that unfolds in the TV series and in general. The CTSAB is providing the information below to assist you in conversations with others about these very serious and sensitive topics.

Suggestions:

  • Preview the series prior to permitting youth to view.
  • If you consider the series suitable for youth, watch the series with them.
  • Watch the series companion piece "13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons" on Netflix for a discussion by cast, producers, and mental health professionals about the series.
  • Create a safe, judgment-free zone when talking about the series and the subject matter.
  • Discuss Reasons to Live, and how to stay safe.  Who are trusted adults to talk with, and where/how to access help.
  • Get help.  In CT call 211 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255) the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  In an emergency call 911.

Resources:

FOX61 spoke to several Valley Regional High School students who watched the show to get garner a teens perspective. Sophomore Lucky Newman, said the show was good, but there were parts that she found to be problematic.

“It's kind of promoting self-harm, and suicide and like in a way bullying and in some parts rape,” she said. “I’ve heard people say it’s the best show and its really eye opening but I've also heard people talking about the problems with it.”

Valley Regional High School Junior, Rachel Trezza, called the show intense and said it was at times, inappropriate, however, she said some topics are relatable issues for high school students.

“Definitely bullying and harassment, sending pictures around and stuff like that is definitely a thing in schools,” she said.

The big takeaway she said is to always keep an eye on friends and be careful what you say.

A message she wants to pass along to peers is if you hear something or see something happen, talk to people about it.

Child Psychologist, Dr. Sheryl Gonzalez, said you shouldn’t avoid talking about the topic with your kids because if your child hasn’t watched it, they likely have spoken to someone who has.

While she believes the series does give an unrealistic portrayal of suicide, she thinks it’s creating a unique opportunity to discuss this sensitive subject matter.

“It has been able to hit the target audience of pre-teens and teens in a way that no other public service announcement has ever been able to do,” she said.

Dr. Gonzaelz said it’s likely your child or someone they know has probably thought about or talked about suicide and it’s something we shouldn’t be in denial about.

“Don’t be afraid to talk about it,” she said. “Take the opportunity to be the lead educator about it, share what you know about the topic, learn together about it.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among young American people, those between ages 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death.

You can find more information about the show and tips for parents here.

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