WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. - A popular Netflix television show that depicts a teenager’s suicide has prompted school officials in Bedford to issue a safety message to parents.
On Tuesday, April 25, Bedford Central School District Superintendent Christopher Manno sent a letter to families regarding the original series “13 Reasons Why,” which is based on a young adult novel of the same name by author Jay Asher, but contains mature themes.
Manno said that the show contains subject matter that includes graphic depictions of rape, substance abuse, cyber bullying, voyeurism and suicide, which may not be suitable for students. He said that while many middle and high school students may have seen some or all of the episodes, it is produced by Selena Gomez, and it may be reaching too wide an audience of younger students.
“It is important for you to be cognizant of its availability, allure, content and popularity,” he said. “The series romanticizes suicide as a viable option, portrays school support staff as being non-responsive to students in need and does not offer any appropriate responses or advice for students who may be in crisis.”
According to Manno, producers of the series are portraying the series as an “important dialogue” about teenage abuse, bullying and suicide. He noted that the National Association of School Psychologists “cautions that its powerful storytelling may lead impressionable viewers to sensationalize the choices made by the character and/or develop revenge fantasies.”
“They say they hope the series can help those who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide,” Manno added. “However, the mental health community worries that the series undermines the importance of help-seeking strategies, exposes students to multiple traumas and romanticizes the idea of suicide.”
Manno said that the letter was written “with the hope that with informed guidance from parents and trusted adults, students will make healthy decisions regarding their young lives.”
“Caring for the well-being of young children and teens is most effective when schools and parents work together. Series such as this can be thought-provoking but, they can also do harm. It is highly recommended that if your child is interested in the program, you consider watching it with them in order to give the supporting guidance that suicide is never an answer, and the blame for suicide does NOT belong to others.
In an effort to assist parents, Manno included multiple resources from mental health organizations to help them become more informed about the series.
- 13 Reasons Why Tip Sheet from SAVE and the JED Foundation
- 13 Reasons Why - JED’s Point of View
- National Association of School Psychologists’ Guidance for Families and Educators
- 7 Essential Discussion Questions for 13 Reasons Why
- Risk Factors and Warning Signs - American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- Preventing Youth Suicide Brief Facts (also available in Spanish ) and Preventing Youth Suicide: Tips or Parents and Educators