The Netflix series 13 Reasons Why is based on a novel by Jay Asher.
The story follows high school sophomore Clay Jensen as he listens to audio cassette recordings of classmate Hannah Baker’s reasons for committing suicide. Each recording blames individuals and incidents for Hannah’s decision to end her life, seemingly giving her the opportunity for posthumous revenge.
Appropriate for Young Viewers?
Children as young as 11 and 12 are watching this series without parental supervision. It is not recommended for children under age 12, as the show revolves around the sophomore year of high school (and contains graphic depictions of violence, rape and suicide). Read a synopsis of the show or episode descriptions to determine if it’s okay for your individual child to watch.
The narrative doesn’t give an accurate depiction of how depression is typically addressed. When parents express concern about their child’s depression, pediatricians involve a mental health professional. School counselors can also bring in a mental health professional as needed.
Contrary to instances of negative feedback, the book and series were not designed to glorify suicide. Instead, they create an incredible opportunity to discuss an important topic.
If your child is going to watch the series, you should watch it with him. Pause to discuss situations that come up in the show, like cyber-bullying. Ask your child if he’s seen anything like that in school. Engage him in discussion.
Reducing Suicide Risk
Teen suicide has increased 300% since 1950. It's imperative that children who are high risk (Native Americans, LGBQT and sexually questioning youth) and want to watch the show do so with an adult.
The brain doesn't finish developing until at least age 25. Impulsive behavior is triggered more quickly and intensely in youth. Reduce risk for your kids by locking up access to weapons, medication and alcohol. A moment of hopelessness can push a teen to engage in dangerous behavior.
Remember, you are the parent. You have to step up to the plate and communicate with your child. Insist on mental health care improvement. Get involved at your child’s school. Be open. Set a good example. Don’t be afraid to be a parent and say no.
Listen as Dr. Cora Breuner joins Melanie Cole, MS, to share how to use this series as an opportunity to discuss difficult topics.