13 Reasons - Netflix Show

Dear Parents,

Over the past week there have been reports in the media that there are increasing concerns and conversations related to a Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” specifically regarding this series and its potential impact around suicide ideation. This series, we feel, has the potential to impact youth who are vulnerable, are at risk, have experienced trauma, are victims of bullying and other events depicted in the series or who may be struggling with suicide ideation themselves. The series is presented with significant detail and is a very heavy topic. While we have had very limited conversations brought forward from students in Westwind to this point, we are aware that across the country and the United States this has increased suicide risk and incidents of imitated behaviour have been observed.  

Quoting from the NASP article linked below:

We do not recommend that vulnerable youth, especially those who have any degree of suicidal ideation, watch this series. Its powerful storytelling may lead impressionable viewers to romanticize the choices made by the characters and/or develop revenge fantasies. They may easily identify with the experiences portrayed and recognize both the intentional and unintentional effects on the central character. Unfortunately, adult characters in the show, including the second school counselor who inadequately addresses Hannah's pleas for help, do not inspire a sense of trust or ability to help. Hannah's parents are also unaware of the events that lead her suicide death.

While many youth are resilient and capable of differentiating between a TV drama and real life, engaging in thoughtful conversations with them about the show is vital. Doing so presents an opportunity to help them process the issues addressed, consider the consequences of certain choices, and reinforce the message that suicide is not a solution to problems and that help is available. This is particularly important for adolescents who are isolated, struggling, or vulnerable to suggestive images and storylines.  Research shows that exposure to another person's suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of death, can be one of the many risk factors that youth struggling with mental health conditions cite as a reason they contemplate or attempt suicide.

Quoting from the New Jersey Association of Psychologists article linked below:

For Educators:

We do not recommend a viewing of this series within a school setting because (besides the obvious administrative and parent consent issues), there is no way to assess which students may be vulnerable to the content nor a practical way to adequately provide follow up after the viewing.

For Parents:

The New Jersey Association of School Psychologists article linked below continues to suggest that parents should watch the series so they are better equipped to understand the variables that accompany the issue of teen suicide and to be able to support their children in their growth and development.

Please refer to both articles and the links included in them for further information.  Our school counsellors, family school liaison counsellors, and principals have received all of this information. All of our counsellors have received Suicide Intervention Training as well as many of our school administrators and our Assistant Superintendent with responsibility for students.

We share this with some caution. We do not intend to suggest that all our students and teens in particular with Netflix access have watched the series. As partners with you, we feel it timely to provide this information for you to consider. Please be proactive in the conversations with your sons and daughters. Please contact school administration or Family School Liaison Counsellors should you have any concerns about your child’s safety, or the safety or wellbeing of one of their friends or classmates. We are available to provide assistance should you wish to reach out. 

Sincerely,

Ken Sommerfeldt
Superintendent of Schools

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