Netflix is currently streaming 13 Reasons Why, a fictional account of a teenager's suicide, its foreshadowing, and its aftermath. Although the 13-episode series is highly popular and is getting a great deal of attention on social media, we have concerns about its overall message and portrayal of a teenager struggling with many serious life challenges.
If you work with young people, you may get some questions or comments about the series, so we encourage you to either watch it or read some of the coverage of it to learn more about it.
Most importantly, we're concerned that vulnerable viewers may identify with Hannah, the main character, and begin to believe that suicide is a valid option when life gets difficult. We'd like to emphasize the fact that taking one's life is never the right decision, no matter how difficult life may seem at the moment. Instead, we are encouraging viewers to reach out and get help from a friend, a trusted adult, or a trained mental health professional.
Although we have concerns about 13 Reasons Why, the best thing that could result from it is increased awareness of and discussion about the pain of suicide and suicidal thoughts, opportunities for mental health help, and disturbing or traumatic experiences some young people encounter, such as depression, bullying, cyber-bullying, and sexual assault. To that end, we hope that adults working with young people make themselves available for these conversations and will reach out to those who may be hesitant about revealing their feelings.
On the Prevent Suicide Greater Milwaukee website, you'll find 13 Reasons Why-related resources from the Jed Foundation, Suicide Awareness Voices of America (SAVE), and the National Association of School Psychologists. We urge you to read the talking points, the blog from Victor Schwartz, M.D., and the guidance for educators, and to learn more about the series and the signs of suicidal thoughts. In addition, be aware of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), as well as the 24-hour crisis text line, which can be accessed by texting "START" to 741741.
The Community Advocates Public Policy Institute Prevention Team