13 REASONS WHY

Letter with Resources to Parents  

Hello Parents,
You may have heard of the hit Netflix show 13 Reasons Why. In the month it has been out, it has become the most watched show on Netflix and the most tweeted about show in the history of Twitter – a pretty big deal, and widely watched. 13 Reasons Why follows the story of Hannah Baker, a high school student who recently committed suicide and left cassette tapes for her classmates, detailing the reasons why they were responsible for her committing suicide. In the course of the show, it covers drug use, alcohol usage, gossip, sexual activity, social media, as well as graphic portrayals of rape and suicide. 

In several casual conversations with both middle and high school youth in our community, it has become clear most students have seen this show and are wrestling with the impact of it. If you have not yet asked your student about this show, I recommend doing so. It is important that students who may have seen this show have the support of parents, teachers, and other adults after and even while watching this show. I know several local school districts have sent out letters to parents detailing information and resources about those shows. I will share these resources from other local schools, as well as a couple of my own for your perusal. 

Youth Group Discussions

Because of both the popularity of the show and the seriousness of the topics brought to light in this series, over the next 4 Wednesdays in May 2017, I will be leading conversations on the topics and issues relating to the show during youth group. Over these next four weeks, we will discuss critical thinking and media consumption, being wise in choosing what we watch and listen to, issues relating to sexuality and in particular sexual assault and date rape, drug and alcohol use, gossip and social media, and suicide and self-harm. We will discuss these issues, how to get help for ourselves and our friends, and how God and our faith interacts with these critical issues.

If your student has seen this show, we hope that by discussing this together, we can be a support to youth in our community. However, watching the show is not necessary to participate in the upcoming conversations. And for many youth, watching this show can cause more harm than good. So in all of our conversations, we will make certain that we are not recommending the show but rather helping to guide youth as they deal with critical issues. 

Parent Support
If there is interest, I am willing to put together a parent discussion one evening around this show and the topics relating to it. If that is of use to you, please let me know.

Finally, I recently went to an eight hour seminar – Mental Health First Aid for Teenagers. We covered a variety of mental health issues, warning signs, and how to approach and help a teenager who is struggling. If there is enough parent interest, I would love to bring this seminar to parents, perhaps in the fall. 

If your kids are watching 13 Reasons Why on Netflix right now (and millions of kids are), you have an opportunity for conversation that should not be missed. You'll need to watch it to be able to talk about it in any kind of a meaningful way. It's raw, painful, complicated and hard to watch. It's believable and relatable, and tons of kids are seeing their stories played out. Don't watch it and freak out. Watch it and think. Watch it and pray. Watch it and evaluate your own family and community. Watch it and come up with some good open ended questions to spark some deep and meaningful conversation. 

Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Why are kids so cautious about talking to adults about what's actually going on in their lives?
  • In what ways is your school like the one in the show?
  • What are you doing to make your campus a safer place for kids who are struggling in ways that most people might not see?
  • What are some things I'm doing as your dad/mom that makes it harder for you to talk to me?
  • What would you do if you found out that one of your friends was spiraling toward despair and hopelessness?" 

Please let me know if you have any concerns or questions. As always, my office door is always open. 

Blessings,

Angie Rines, Director of Youth and Young Adults 

Recommendations

  1. Watch this show on your own, if only just an episode or two, to know what your young person is watching.
  2. If your student has already seen this show, ask them questions about what they saw and what they thought about it. If your student is willing, watching it together and discussing it afterward may even be a great option.
  3. Do not be afraid to talk about suicide or ask about suicide. Most mental health professionals agree that using the word suicide or asking about it doesn’t increase the likelihood of it but rather opens the door to discussing a very important and relevant topic. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in young people, so it is important to know the signs. 

For other recommendations and resources check out this release from the National Association of School Psychologists:
https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources/school-safety-and-crisis/preventing-youth-suicide/13-reasons-why-netflix-series-considerations-for-educators 

Other Recommended Resources

Resources and Guidance

NJ Suicide Prevention Hotline: (855) 654-6735

Addictions Hotline: (844) 276-2777

Loss Support Network: 1-800-931-2237

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: https://afsp.org/

NJ Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention: www.njbullying.org    

Behavioral Health Treatment Locator: https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/