How to Talk with Your Teen about “13 Reasons Why”

May 05, 2017

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News

CBS News

The popularity of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, a fictional account of a teenage girl’s suicide death, has prompted concerns among parents and educators. In response, mental health and suicide prevention experts are providing guidance on how to help young viewers navigate its graphic content. According to Christine Moutier, chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), kids and teens who are at risk for suicide should avoid watching the series. It is recommended that parents and teachers engage youth in an open-ended, non-judgmental conversation and become familiar with suicide prevention information and resources available through organizations like AFSP and the Jed Foundation. Moutier warned that exposing the public to violent imagery and sensationalized messaging about suicide can reinforce stereotypes that are inaccurate and harmful, especially to those who are at risk for suicide or mental health problems. “No matter how much you try to defend a graphic portrayal of suicide to raise awareness, there is no way it will change the very real and dangerous suicide risk among the population that is vulnerable,” she said. “It’s very tempting to use that kind of graphic portrayal, thinking you won’t be able to drive your point home if you don’t, but it’s a harmful message.”

Spark Extra! Read the Jed Foundation’s tips for viewing and discussing the series.