Thursday, April 27, 2017

Louisville schools, national school psychologists' group warn about Netflix miniseries on a fictional youth suicide

"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" is a 13-episode drama about the fictional 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," Konz writes. "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 "vulnerable youth, especially those who have any degree of suicidal ideation," not watch the series. "Its powerful storytelling may lead impressionable viewers to romanticize the choices made by the characters and/or develop revenge fantasies."

Murray State University student Paula Jaco wrote on Facebook, "This show is very trigger-worthy. Please be aware before starting the series." She told Leah Shields of Paducah's WPSD-TV that she was hospitalized for mental illness in December, and "I think they had a chance to really campaign for suicide prevention, and they missed the mark."
JCPS spokeswoman Allison Martin said the school district sent the letter to parents because guidance counselors heard discussion about the miniseries in classrooms and elsewhere in school buildings. 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.
If you feel you need additional guidance on suicidal thoughts, depression or how to address the series, we encourage you to talk with your child's school counselor.  We have also included talking points and general guidance for families.  Thank you for partnering with us to keep your child safe.
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 district cited other resources: 13 Reasons Why Talking PointsPreventing 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). 

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