The Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” has been as controversial as it is popular. The drama features the story of fictional teenager Hannah Baker and her suicide. Rather than leave a note, however, Hannah leaves behind 13 cassette tapes, each one with a message to a person in her life who she believes contributed to her decision to kill herself.
Its popularity is evident by the buzz on social media. In just over a month since the 13-part series launched, there were 11 million tweets related to the show, according to Variety. That makes it “the most tweeted-about show of 2017” so far.
Proponents of the show say that it realistically portrays issues teenagers face. But numerous mental health and education organizations have issued warnings about the show, calling it a “revenge fantasy” that could inspire impressionable teens to commit suicide. They contend that the show romanticizes suicide or at least presents it as a legitimate alternative to dealing with painful realities. Critics also argue that it portrays inaccurate information and never mentions mental health issues, which they say are by far the primary reasons teens take their own lives.
Because it is being discussed by teens, including many middle-schoolers, adults are being encouraged to talk about the issues raised in the show. These resources are recommended by experts.
National Association of School Psychologists
The link offers strategies for teachers, parents, and students to discuss and address issues raised in the show. It includes guidelines for educators and families, and safe messaging for students.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
The site includes “Preventing Suicides: A Tool Kit for High School.” Although it is geared to educators, it also is an excellent resource for youth ministry. Ideas for collaborating with schools are also included.