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Suicide prevention expert weighs in on debate over Netflix's '13 Reasons Why'

Expert offers list of suicide prevention resources

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ORLANDO, Fla. – As controversy over the hit Netflix show "13 Reasons Why" continues, many are concerned over the release of the show's second season falling around the time children are getting out of school for the summer, when resources may not be as readily available as they are during the school year.

As the debate over how graphic the series is and whether some of the issues depicted in it are appropriate for teens and other young viewers has been swirling, News 6 sat down with an expert who weighed in on the controversy.

Valerie Morales is the chairwoman for the Central Florida chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the largest leading nonprofit in the nation for suicide prevention research and an organization that doesn't recommend the show for people who have had suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide or have a history of sexual abuse.

News 6 morning anchor and health reporter Kirstin O'Connor asked Morales about her background and had her explain some of the concerns surrounding the series. Here's a full breakdown of their conversation:

Q: How did you get involved with AFSP? 
A: "I got involved with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention once I got started working at this mental health agency (Hispanic Family Counseling), however, it is something that is close to me. I lost a classmate and a friend when I was in eighth grade and then, soon after that, I lost a family friend, and I've also had experience with that from a teacher from a high school." 

Q: Have you seen the 13 Reasons Why show?
A: "I did see the first one. I have not seen the second season. I cannot bring myself to see it yet. I feel like I have to be very cautious about it. The first season, again, was very graphic. It's a very graphic show."

Q: And when you talk about it being graphic, I mean, it actually shows a suicide at the end of the first season?
A: "Yes, it does. So it's very important to understand, when suicide is presented in that way, it can create a contagion effect. And what that is, is, basically, it's presenting suicide as an acceptable solution, right? And other people who may already be having, you know, be having a mental health condition such as depression or bipolar disorder, they may actually be looking for asolution themselves. Or they might be having suicidal ideation or suicidal thoughts. And if they're presented constantly with suicide being a solution, they themselves may then, in turn, decide that it is a solution for them."

Q: And your thoughts about kids watching this, what are they?
A: "The kids are going to see this show whether they watch it with their parents or not. That's just the reality of it. TYhey have so much access to it. There's Netflix. But, even if you don't have a Netflix account, their friends have a Netflix account, you know, so they're going to find a way to watch it if they want to watch it."

Morales encouraged parents to visit the foundation's resource guide for warning signs and ways to help prevent suicide.

She also offered tips for parents and the following list of resources:


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