Mental health specialists warn parents ahead of summer release of '13 Reasons Why'

'13 Reasons Why' season 2 tackles school shootings, abuse

A popular teenage drama on Netflix that addresses violent topics such as sexual assault and suicide is taking on school shootings in its second season.

The Netflix series "13 Reasons Why" debuted in March 2016 with much controversy. The show, that targets a teenage audience, begins with the story of Hannah Baker, a high school student who commits suicide and leaves voice recordings for her peers.

Following it's release, reports surfaced of kids copying suicidal behavior that is featured in the show.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, known as AFSP, issued statements to express concerns about the lack of resources provided in the first season.
"They were showing all these graphic images, they were putting blame, romanticizing suicide and anybody watching it at the end of the show was kind of left on a cliffhanger," AFSP's Central Florida chapter chair Valeria Morales.
Morales said teenagers were likely binge watching the series, which is not recommended by AFSP.

Morales is a SafeTALK instructor and has training to help adults have conversations with teens about suicidal or harmful thoughts and behavior.
"If you don't know what your triggers are and you're presented with these graphic images it's something that could definitely affect you a lot more than just any other regular show," Morales said.
She said the main concern was a contagion effect. Graphic images, like the ones in the "13 Reasons Why" show can be triggers for people who are suffering from mental illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety.
"Because there's no single cause it's not helpful to blame people or a certain specific event, kind of like the way the show is presenting it," said Morales.
A target of that blame in the show is a school counselor, who by the second season is called to testify when Baker's family sues the school.
Licensed mental health counselor Ashley Sanders said while the show focuses on the school counselor, there are a lot of people providing support for students.
"Whether it's school social workers, school nurses, administration, teachers, I think everybody is part of making that positive environment for that student," said Sanders.
Rock Lake Middle School Principal Dr. Jordan Rodriguez said when he heard the second season of the series would be released over the summer break, he issued an alert to parents at the school on Facebook:

"RLMS Parents: If your child is watching the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, please ensure that you maintain an open dialogue with them about the subject matter of the show. We know this is a popular show with middle and high school age children. The show deals with some very serious topics."
In addition to social media alerts and email, Rodriguez said the school implemented a new app that allows students to text anonymous reports of threats.
"They can share information in real time, and it gets reported back to our deputy it's completely anonymous and it can lead to us taking action and possibly saving lives," said Rodriguez.

According to AFSP, mental disorders or substance abuse have been found in 90 percent of people who have died by suicide. Morales said this points to research that suicide is preventable with more support for mental health.
"The kids are going to see this show whether they watch it with their parents or not. That's just the reality of it, they have so much access to it," said Morales.

Morales suggested several free educational trainings for parents and teachers:

Youth Mental Health First Aid
Register for Spanish training on June 14 here.
Register for English training on June 22 here.
Register for English training on June 29  here.

Mental Health First Aid

About the Author: