13 Reasons Why: A Response from HeartLife
As mental health professionals, we want to inform you about relevant cultural issues that are affecting our children and teenagers. Recently, Netflix released the series “13 Reasons Why” available for streaming.
This show depicts a high school girl who has committed suicide, leaving behind audio tapes about her fellow students who contributed to the decision to end her life. Each episode focuses on one of the tapes where the girl explains how a classmate, knowingly or unknowingly, contributed to the emotional pain she was experiencing.
Reality and Fantasy
We are thankful for the way that this show intends to bring light to issues surrounding mental health, suicide, sexual assault and bullying.
However, we are very concerned for the wellbeing of teenagers as they internalize the subliminal messages present in this show. The teenage brain is developing in many ways throughout adolescence and teenagers often have a difficult time distinguishing between reality and fantasy. Lines often become blurred. Therefore, the dramatization of suicide and the allure of righting wrongs inflicted on an individual through self-harm are concerns that we believe need to be addressed.
In addition, for those who have experienced sexual assault or for those who have considered self-harm, this show is full of emotional triggers which could be very damaging.
We advise our clients and parents to use incredible discretion when considering whether to view this show as images are very graphic and underlying messages of disempowerment and revenge are strong.
Another concern is the way the school counselor is portrayed in the final episode, in which he does not act when presented with warning signs that the girl may be contemplating suicide.
Teens who see this may believe that they cannot receive adequate support or help from their schools or mental health counselors. We want teens to know that there are supportive adults including parents, teachers, counselors, mentors and others who will listen, provide support, and connect teens with resources needed if you or someone you know are struggling with any issues presented in this show.
Please Reach Out to Us
At HeartLife, we have seen a tremendous increase in patients with suicidal thoughts who have viewed the show.
These statistics cause us great alarm. Thankfully, these topics are being addressed in therapy. However, we are still greatly concerned for those who may view the show and internalize what they see, accepting it as reality. Therefore, we believe, that parents and mentors need to be extremely intentional about engaging in these conversations with young people and taking an active stance against suicide. If you are a parent of a teen who has viewed this show, we encourage you to do your own research and actively engage your teenager in conversation about the messages communicated. At HeartLife, we desire to help. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please reach out to us. Our staff is ready and willing to help.
We are grateful for the conversations which are beginning between teenagers, parents, school systems and the mental health community and we desire to be a part of that. Let’s use this opportunity as a catalyst to continue the conversation in helpful ways that lead to help and hope for teens.
For more information about the warnings of suicide please see:
For talking points with your children about 13 Reasons Why, please see: