About a month ago, Netflix added “13 Reasons Why” to its streaming content, and teens are obsessed.
The 13-episode series follows a teenage boy trying to wrap his mind around the suicide of his friend, a teenage girl, as he listens to the 13 tapes she left behind to describe events leading up to her death.
In the end, her peers come to feel sorry for what they did to drive her to her tragic decision. It’s revenge by suicide — a dangerous glamorization of a real temptation for many teens.
Mental health experts have come forward with warnings about the show. Here’s what the National Association of School Psychologists had to say:
“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.”
Who are these “vulnerable youth” the statement mentions? So many teens could fit into that category. Bullying abounds among young people, especially now that social media makes it easy to inflict emotional pain from a distance.
Parents, teachers, and other adults can be on the lookout for signs of suicidal thoughts in the teens around them. Here’s a good list of warning signs from the Mayo Clinic:
- Talking or writing about suicide — for example, making statements such as “I’m going to kill myself,” or “I won’t be a problem for you much longer”
- Withdrawing from social contact
- Having mood swings
- Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
- Feeling trapped or hopeless about a situation
- Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns
- Doing risky or self-destructive things
- Giving away belongings when there is no other logical explanation for why this is being done
- Developing personality changes or being severely anxious or agitated when experiencing some of the warning signs listed above
Whether you suspect your teen may have suicidal feelings or not, it’s a good idea to talk to him or her about the show. Make sure he or she knows help is available and there is hope.