By: Lindsay Wallace, Executive Director
Recently, I gave two speeches on youth mental health to area high schools. During both of those speaking engagements, I was asked for guidance from parents and teachers on how to talk about the new Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, with their kids and students.
The series is based on a fictional novel and revolves around Hannah Baker, a 17-year-old who takes her own life and leaves behind 13 audio recordings for people who she says in some way are part of why she killed herself. The series also depicts her graphic suicide death and brings attention to difficult topics like bullying and rape.
While we do not recommend that all people watch the series, particularly if one is experiencing suicidal ideation, it can be used as an opportunity to better understand young people's experiences, listen to their concerns, and be willing to help.
Encouraging youth to reach out, talk to others, and seek help is a way of fostering healthy coping skills for dealing with life's challenges. However, not everyone who is suicidal will always reach out for help. For this reason, it is important that parents, school staff, and peers are able to recognize the early warning signs and take immediate action to keep the youth safe.
NAMI Dane County uses talking points created by Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) and the JED Foundation for conversations about the 13 Reasons Why series; it is available online for further reading.
Remember, 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 or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).