A reflection by David Cortese, Director of Faith Formation
Experts have cautioned parents about the hit Netflix show, 13 Reasons Why. The original Netflix show is based on a novel of the same name which has sold over 3 million copies.
The show deals with the issue of teen suicide – which is an important issue that needs to be talked about openly and honestly. However, this show could affect your child negatively especially if they watch the series without an adult or without conversations to process the content of the show.
13 Reasons Why is a drama narrated by Hannah Baker, a high school junior who commits suicide and leaves behind thirteen audio cassette tapes, each with her voice naming a person and describing what he or she did to lead her to take her own life. The story follows Clay Jensen, one of Hannah’s classmates and friends, as he listens to each of the cassette tapes and retraces Hannah’s suicidal steps all the way from a terrible rumor that was started about her, to losing her best girlfriend, to being raped (shown in graphic detail) at a party, and to her eventually slitting her wrists (shown in graphic detail) in a bathtub. (From Life Teen)
•Suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth ages 10-24 according to the CDC.
•It is reported that 90% of suicides are committed by people who have a mental illness. Mental illness is never discussed in the show. The show could give the false impression that bullying or issues alone cause suicide. People who have suicidal thoughts need to get professional help.
•I think the reason this show has quickly become popular it because it deals with issues the teenagers face today but are not talked about seriously. I graduated high school about 12 years ago and the pressure, stress, and emotional issues in high school are dramatically different today. If it has been longer since you were in high school – you probably would be surprised by some of the issues teenagers must deal with.
•I agree with the feedback from experts who caution teens to watch this show, especially if they have dealt with mental illness, bullying, sexual assault, or rape. The show could cause triggers for your child especially if they watch the series alone or all at once.
•The show never addresses faith. Without a relationship with God, prayer, and a community of disciples dealing with these issues can be very challenging. Our faith should be at the center of conversations about mental health and bullying.
•If you have a teenager, I recommend that you find out if your child has watched the series. If they have, I would strongly suggest watching it yourself and engaging in a conversation with your child about the show. If your child has not seen the show or if you do not have a teenager yet, I would consider watching the show (unless you might be triggered by the content of the show) to understand teen culture and bullying. Although, it is a little dramatic it will be an eye-opening experience.
•The main character in the series did reach out for help. She reached out to a school counselor who did not help her right before she committed suicide. Often students reach out to people and do not always get the help they need. I think it is important for teens to know that if a counselor, teacher, or anyone else does not provide the help they need they need to go to someone else until they find someone that can help them. Watching this show, may cause students to realize they need help so it is important you have a conversation with your child if they have watched the show.
On May 7thwe will be doing a special night at The Intersection about this show. We will not be showing clips of the show because I believe parents need to decide if their child should view the show. We will discuss the issues addressed in the show: suicide, sexual assault, and bullying. We will also discuss the issues the show should have addressed: mental health, seeking help, and faith.
We are not doing this session to encourage people to watch the television show. However, I feel so many teens have seen the show, we have a responsibility to discuss it.
If you know someone that needs help with suicidal thoughts, please call The National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.