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13 Reasons Why. To Watch Or Not To Watch?

If you don’t already know, the popular Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, based on the Jay Asher novel, has stirred up quite the controversy. And rightfully so since teenage depression and suicide is an epidemic that according to the AACAP, is the third leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds. From a personal perspective, I had struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts when I was younger and now I am a parent who fears that my own children could also be susceptible. After watching the series alone, and with May being Mental Health Awareness Month, I have some perspectives to offer on this newly popular series . 

  1. Accuracy
    • This show is painfully accurate. The main characters performance is heart wrenching and makes the viewer extremely uncomfortable. There is no happy ending here, and her experiences are very real and relatable. So much so that it makes the viewer squirm in their seat and in some cases, shut off the show completely. It may feel like the story is an exaggerated portrayal but I can honestly say that it all happens. And of course it doesn’t always happen to everyone but even in the most privileged of sheltered communities you will find teens using the same language spoken in the show, rich and poor students who sell drugs to their friends, and rape. It all actually happens and many times parents have no idea whats going on. It is important to not dismiss the show as overdramatic when it can be a very real set of circumstances for so many teens. 
  2. Viewing Age
    • This series is 100% not appropriate for children or young teens. Not only are the themes very mature but the scenes are VERY graphic. I do however, believe that this is a series every adult should experience. If you can manage to become emotionally invested you may end up feeling a snippet of what it is like for a teenager in this generation to feel like their life is unbearable. So that you can never be one of the adults who dismiss the signs or downplay the seriousness of bullying and its ripple effects. 
  3. Watch WITH your teens
    • If your teenage children are going to watch the series, please watch with them. Regularly discuss the topics that come up and ensure that your teen doesn’t find the series inspirational. For someone that is struggling and suicidal there is deep need to make people understand how they feel. On one hand a child can feel so desperate to be understood but on the other hand, every snide word or daily tragedy can prohibit them from expressing their pain in a productive way. The female character, Hannah, can potentially be viewed as someone who was effectively able to force understanding from her classmates and almost live on in memoriam of all the people that had hurt her. This is a very dangerous notion and the adult needs to be the one to remind their children that suicide is never the answer to their pain. 
    • As an adult it may seem trivial, what teens go through in high school. But to the individual it genuinely seems like the wold is falling down around them. And for many the hurt gets compounded on a daily basis. It is up to the parent to be the lighthouse in the storm and also other parents who can encourage their children to be the lighthouse for their classmates. If there is one thing this show can teach you, it’s that a kind word to someone in despair can turn into a life saved. 
  4. Resources

As May comes to a close, so does Mental Health Awareness month. But we should be aware of the resources out there to help us save our youth. 

  • Check out this blog for resources on ways to get help and support Read More 
  • Red Flags: “Committed to making mental health education an integral part of the infrastructure of K-12 educational institutions.”
  • The Jason Foundation: Training program for students, educators, and parents

All in all it is up to you how you approach a show like this. And for most of you, you may not need to watch a show to understand the graveness of the teen suicide epidemic. However, since it is so accessible and popular it may be useful as a tool to stimulate conversation with the teenagers in your life. 

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