Last spring, 13 Reasons Why was released by Netflix and quickly became one of the most viewed series in the streaming media company’s history.
Based on the Jay Asher novel of the same name, the series provocatively covered many heavy topics for young people, including suicide, sexual assault, substance abuse, online and in person bullying, and numerous struggles between friends when these issues are present.
On May 18, Netflix will release Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why, and while the exact content is not being shared by the entertainment company, it will undoubtedly be provocative and graphic and likely cover topics such as suicide, school violence, sexual assault and how one can deal with the aftermath, bullying, and substance abuse. The information below is designed to assist parents and families help their child navigate these incredibly challenging issues.
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.
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.
What the series does accurately convey is that there is no single cause of suicide. Indeed, there are likely as many different pathways to suicide as there are suicide deaths. However, the series does not emphasize that common among most suicide deaths is the presence of treatable mental illnesses.
Suicide is not the simple consequence of stressors or coping challenges, but rather, it is most typically a combined result of treatable mental illnesses and overwhelming or intolerable stressors.
Top six viewing Tips
We discourage watching Season 2 among vulnerable and at-risk youth (for example, those living with depression or an anxiety disorder) because of the triggering impact it could have on them. The content could be quite disturbing to them and result in them needing additional care, monitoring, support and/or treatment.
If you do watch the series, make an effort to watch the second season of 13 Reasons Why with your child. We know that this may not always be possible, but doing so provides the opportunity to monitor the impact of each episode on your child and to evaluate whether any of the themes in the series are too overwhelming at present. It also provides the chance to reflect on and discuss content from the series with one another.
If you are not able to watch Season 2 with your child, ask them if they have seen it or not. If they have, be curious about their impressions and open to talking with them about their thoughts and feelings about the content. Make sure they know that they can come to you with any questions or worries about themselves or their friends, and that you will be there to listen and help guide them.
Make sure to check in with your child more than just one time over a couple of weeks after the show is watched. Sometimes it takes a few days before emotions really impact young people, and as they talk with peers about various reactions to the show.
Reassure your child that fiction and reality are not the same thing. Help them understand that what they see and hear on television is not their life, but a story crafted by writers aiming to engage an audience. Even though they might believe that what they have seen feels like their reality, it is critical that you help them understand that the outcomes from the series do not have to be their outcomes.
If you need any resources, please do not hesitate to contact the school. Knowing who you can reach out to for support is a good prevention strategy.