Guest Blog Post from Jessica Dambach - PAML Guidance Counselor
13 Reasons Why I Do Not Love this Popular Series:
Many parents and caregivers may have heard of the hit Netflix series 13 Reasons Why which is now very popular with middle and high school students. This series is based around a 17 year-old, Hannah Baker, who dies by suicide and leaves behind audio recordings to 13 people who she feels in some way were part of why she killed herself.
Although the series is rated TV-MA, students as young as 9 years old are watching this on their phones undetected by parents.
Due to the graphic nature of this series, showing the suicide as well as a number of other difficult topics such as bullying, sexual assault, drunk driving, drug use and shaming, it is not advised that middle school students watch this unless approved by their parents. Even then, please talk to your student about their thoughts and feelings after viewing.
As quoted in a statement released by National Association of School Psychologists (NASP):
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 to her suicide death.
As a side note, although this setting is a high school, the actors portrayed are all mostly in their 20’s. Hannah is 21 and Clay 20; these high school students are all attractive and confident….
MY 13 Reasons Why I Don’t Love This Series:
- 9 year-olds watch it on their phones.
- The actors are in their 20’s.
- The actors are all attractive and confident.
- It romanticizes the act of dying by suicide.
- It plays off middle schoolers’ angst around ‘they will regret what they did when I am gone.”
- Viewers are hoping for a second series … 13 Reasons Why Clay Dies...
- It puts the image of cutting wrists in the bathtub in young impressionable minds and they can not unsee it.
- Counselors and parents are not seen as helpful.
- There are no other options explored.
- Hannah looks beautiful as she dies; this glamorizes the act.
- Mental illness and mental health are not discussed.
- It is a how-to for a struggling student who is feeling there are no other options.
- With the graphic depictions and topics, it is a trigger for those who have tough situations in their past.
If you have worries or concerns about a PAML student, please let me know as soon as possible. Also, Lamoille County Mental Health Crisis Services are available 24 hours a day at 888-5026 during the day and 888-8888 after hours to respond to emergencies. We would always rather err on the side of caution when dealing with our children.