Dear Students,

While the majority of you are already aware of the Netflix series titled “13 Reasons Why,” we wanted to give you additional tools for addressing the concerns which surround it.  Please take the time to read this email all the way through, as a way to support your friends!  The National Association of School Psychologists recently published an article concerning the series and this email includes a large portion of that article and can be read in its entirety at: https://tinyurl.com/ln9cfmp

The trending Netflix series “13 Reasons Why”, based on a young adult novel of the same name, is raising a number of concerns. The series revolves around 17-year-old Hannah Baker, who takes her own life and leaves behind audio recordings for 13 people who she says in some way were part of why she killed herself. Each tape recounts painful events in which one or more of the 13 individuals played a role.

Producers for the show say they hope the series can help those who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide. However, the series, which many teenagers are binge watching without adult guidance and support, is raising concerns from suicide prevention experts about the potential risks posed by the sensationalized treatment of youth suicide. The series graphically depicts a suicide death and addresses in wrenching detail a number of difficult topics, such a bullying, rape, drunk driving, and slut shaming. The series also highlights the consequences of teenagers witnessing assaults and bullying (i.e., bystanders) and not taking action to address the situation (e.g., not speaking out against the incident, not telling an adult about the incident).

Cautions from the Association of School Psychologists

We do not recommend that vulnerable youth, especially those who have any degree of suicidal ideation, watch this series. Its powerful storytelling may lead impressionable viewers to romanticize the choices made by the characters and/or develop revenge fantasies. They may easily identify with the experiences portrayed and recognize both the intentional and unintentional effects on the central character. Unfortunately, adult characters in the show, including the second school counselor who inadequately addresses Hannah’s pleas for help, do not inspire a sense of trust or ability to help. Hannah’s parents are also unaware of the events that lead to her suicide death.

While many youth are resilient and capable of differentiating between a TV drama and real life, engaging in thoughtful conversations with them about the show is vital. Doing so presents an opportunity to help them process the issues addressed, consider the consequences of certain choices, and reinforce the message that suicide is not a solution to problems and that help is available. This is particularly important for adolescents who are isolated, struggling, or vulnerable to suggestive images and storylines. Research shows that exposure to another person’s suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of death, can be one of the many risk factors that youth struggling with mental health conditions cite as a reason they contemplate or attempt suicide.

What the series does accurately convey is that there is no single cause of suicide. Indeed, there are likely as many different pathways to suicide as there are suicide deaths. However, the series does not emphasize that common among most suicide deaths is the presence of treatable mental illnesses. Suicide is not the simple consequence of stressors or coping challenges, but rather, it is most typically a combined result of treatable mental illnesses and overwhelming or intolerable stressors.

School psychologists and other school-employed mental health professionals can assist stakeholders (e.g., school administrators, parents, and teachers) to engage in supportive conversations with students as well as provide resources and offer expertise in preventing harmful behaviors.

A Message for Students from the Association of School Psychologists

  1. Suicide is never a solution. It is an irreversible choice regarding a temporary problem. There is help. If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or know someone who is, talk to a trusted adult, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text “START” to 741741.
  2. Don't be afraid to talk to your friends about how they feel and let them know you care about them.
  3. Be an “upstander” and take actions to reduce bullying and increase positive connections among others. Report concerns.
  4. Never promise to keep secret behaviors that represent a danger toward another person.
  5. Suicide is preventable. People considering suicide typically say something or do something that is a warning sign. Always take warning signs seriously and know the warning signs.
    • Suicide threats, both direct ("I am going to kill myself.") and indirect ("I wish I could fall asleep and never wake up."). Can be verbal, written, or posted online.
    • Suicide notes and planning, including online postings.
    • Preoccupation with death in conversation, writing, drawing, and social media.
    • Changes in behavior, appearance/hygiene, thoughts, and/or feelings.
    • Emotional distress.
  6. Separate myths and facts.
    • MYTH: Talking about suicide will make someone choose death by suicide who has never thought about it before. FACT: There is no evidence to suggest that talking about suicide plants the idea. Talking with your friend about how they feel and letting them know that you care about them is important. This is the first step in getting your friend help.
    • MYTH: People who struggle with depression or other mental illness are just weak. FACT: Depression and other mental illnesses are serious health conditions and are treatable.
    • MYTH: People who talk about suicide won't really do it. FACT: People, particularly young people who are thinking about suicide, typically demonstrate warning signs. Always take these warning signs seriously.
  7. Never leave the person alone; seek out a trusted adult immediately. School-employed mental health professionals like your guidance counselor, principal, or school psychologist are trusted sources of help.
  8. Work with other students and the adults in the school if you want to develop a memorial for someone who has died by suicide. Although decorating a student’s locker, creating a memorial social media page, or other similar activities are quick ways to remember the student who has died, they may influence others to imitate or have thoughts of wanting to die as well. It is recommended that schools develop memorial activities that encourage hope and promote positive outcomes for others (e.g., suicide prevention programs).

Read these helpful points from SAVE.org and the JED Foundation to further understand how 13 Reasons Why dramatizes situations and the realities of suicide. See Save a Friend: Tips for Teens to Prevent Suicide for additional information.

While the majority of you are already aware of this series, we wanted to give you additional tools for addressing the concerns which surrounds this Netflix series.  We also sent similar information concerning this series to your parent.  If you have any concerns about the series or about a student, please make sure you contact Mrs. Bakener, a teacher, or myself so we can provide the proper support.  No teenager has the ability to counsel another student on their own.

Thanks, have a great day, and make sure you are looking out for each other.



==================================
Nathan DeBaillie
Principal
Orion High School
Orion, IL 61273
Phone: (309) 526-3361
Email: ndebaillie@orionschools.us
==================================