This was email blasted to parents with children in and around MPLS schools.
--Several weeks ago, Netflix released a TV series based on Jay Asher's novel 13 Reasons Why. This is an extremely popular show that many young people have been discussing and the district has encountered students in elementary grades who have been watching. If your child is not watching the show, they likely know someone who is. 13 Reasons Why is the story of Hannah Baker's death by suicide told through the 13 tapes she leaves for those she holds accountable. There are many triggering topics depicted including sexual assault, stalking, bullying, and drug and alcohol use. The last episode shows Hannah's death in very graphic detail.
While the show is compelling and dramatic, the concern many of us that work with children share is that it does not accurately model what we would want or hope individuals to do if they are struggling or are in crisis. Neither Hannah nor her friends reach out for help. (Except for one instance that is not at all typical and is a deterrent to reaching out.) The show does not depict that parents are students' number one resource. 13 Reasons Why also does not address the topic of mental illness or depression. We encourage all parents and staff to model ending the stigma around talking about mental health and suicide, especially if you know of a student that is watching this show. Please reassure them that talking openly and honestly about emotional distress (their own or a friend's) with a trusted adult is okay and encouraged.
With television viewing now available and accessible on any mobile device or laptop, being aware of what young people are watching is more challenging than it used to be. Often times our students are streaming shows by themselves or with other teens present, and some are sharing Netflix IDs and passwords with friends so they can access online content.With this shift in how young people consume media, we encourage families and staff to please take a moment to talk with their student about shows they are watching, especially if they are watching shows like 13 Reasons Why. Recently, several media stories have also looked at the show and how it misaligns with best practices of mental health care and suicide prevention, including some that include talking points for parents and educators about the series.
13 Reasons Why Talking Points (JED Foundation)
This Is What's Missing From '13 Reasons Why' (Teen Vogue)?
How '13 Reasons Why' gets suicide wrong: Voices (USA Today)