"A Netflix original miniseries that is getting a lot of attention throughout the country prompted Jefferson County Public Schools to send a resource letter to thousands of its parents," Antoinette Konz reports for Louisville's WDRB-TV.
"13 Reasons Why," Konz writes "is a fictional show that chronicles the suicide of a young woman who leaves behind a series of 13 messages for specific people in her life that she blames for her death. It is based on a novel by the same name. . . . Mental health experts and organizations have been critical of the series since its March 31 premiere."
The National Association of School Psychologists recommended that youth "with any degree of suicidal ideation" not watch the series because it sensationalizes youth suicide. "Its powerful storytelling may lead impressionable viewers to romanticize the choices made by the characters and/or develop revenge fantasies."
JCPS spokeswoman Allison Martin told Konz said the school district sent the letter after guidance counselors heard discussion about the miniseries in classrooms and elsewhere in school buildings.
"It's a conversation our guidance counselors were having with students and parents and they wanted to know what resources were available to them, Martin said.
Here are excerpts from the letter:
Unfortunately, suicide is all too real. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide was the third leading cause of death for people ages 10-24. . . . If your student has watched the series, or has mentioned it at all, it is recommended that you discuss the show with your child. If you have not seen the series, you may want to watch it yourself, or possibly view it with your student; however, it may not be appropriate for some students at all as it is graphic and depicts scenes of suicide, rape, sexual assault, alcohol use and violence. Also, please be advised that students without access to Netflix can still view parts of the series on YouTube.Guidance for Families:
- Ask your child if he or she has heard or seen the series '13 Reasons Why.' While we don't recommend that they be encouraged to view the series, do tell them you want to watch it, with them or to catch up, and discuss their thoughts.
- If they exhibit any of the warning signs, don't be afraid to ask if they have thought about suicide or if someone is hurting them. Raising the issue of suicide does not increase the risk or plant the idea. On the contrary, it creates the opportunity to offer help.
- Ask your child if they think any of their friends or classmates exhibit warning signs. Talk with them about how to seek help for their friend or classmate. Guide them on how to respond when they see or hear any of the warning signs.
- Listen to your children's comments without judgment. Doing so requires that you fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said. Put your own agenda aside.
- Get help from a school-employed or community-based mental health professional if you are concerned for your child's safety or the safety of one of his or her peers.
The school district provided other resources: 13 Reasons Why Talking Points, Preventing Youth Suicide Brief Facts (also available in Spanish) and Preventing Youth Suicide: Tips or Parents and Educators for additional information. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).