There has been a lot of talk – and controversy — about the very popular Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, based on the novel of the same name by Jay Asher. The show is about Hannah Baker, a high school student who takes her own life and then explains what she sees as the 13 “reasons” that led to her decision. Her reasons are described in a box of cassette tapes she leaves behind for the people she says contributed to her death. In these tapes, she explains her perception of how these individuals wronged her and instructs them to pass the tapes on to the next person. The show’s premise alone stirs up a lot of concern for people in the mental health community because this show is a suicide revenge fantasy.

Television’s power shouldn’t be underestimated, especially as it pertains to suicide. It is especially dangerous for young adults—the series’ target audience—most of whom don’t realize the finality of death. This is not to say that the topic of suicide should be avoided, but it must be handled carefully. Research has extensively shown that the way media covers suicide can lead to greater suicide risk. NBC Nightly News specifically cited the show in its recent report on the alarming increase in teen girl suicides just in the past year.

We are passing along the following information, hoping it may prove helpful in making informed choices about watching the show and how to address it with the young people in your lives.The Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) and the Jed Foundation have developed TALKING POINTS to help parents, teachers, and other gatekeepers talk with youth about suicide as it relates to the situational drama that unfolds in the series. The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has also developed  a helpful document to provide guidance and additional resources for both parents and educators.

Here are resources to help:

  • If a loved one is struggling or having a mental health crisis, please contact NAMI-CC at 239.260.7300.
  • In case of an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately.