How to talk to your kids about Netflix drama 13 Reasons Why

BC Children’s Hospital psychiatrists offer tips ahead of TV show’s season 2 release

Two B.C. psychiatrists are offering guidelines for parents about how to talk to their kids about the controversial Netflix TV show 13 Reasons Why.

The show, which premiered on Netflix Canada in early 2017, depicts the troubling life of high school student Hannah. Narrated by the girl herself, the show touches on the themes of gossip, bullying and sexual assault that she says led to her suicide – shown through flashbacks and a set of tapes she creates and sends to her peers before ending her life. Its second season is set to debut on May 18.

READ MORE: Netflix drama 13 Reasons Why prompts letter to parents

Parents, teachers and health officials have expressed concern in the way the show depicts and glamorizes teen suicide, as well as aggravating a teen’s existing mental health problems.

On Thursday, BC Children’s Hospital psychiatrists Drs. Tyler Black and Ashley Miller said care centres across B.C. saw an uptick in young people seeking help after the first season was released. Google searches around suicide-related topics also went up.

“We had a clinical sense there was an impact,” Black said. “When we look at some of the research coming out, both preventative suicide searches [online] and looking for suicide prevention increased, but also research on how to die or ways of dying were things that were increased searches because of 13 Reasons Why.”

Black pointed to the well-researched Werther effect, also known as the copycat effect, in which media coverage and depiction of suicide can trigger those who are more susceptible to such acts themselves.

Both doctors said parents have been left having to navigate through conversations they may have never had with their child around sexual assault, self harm or suicide.

“Parents were definitely asking us, ‘What do I do about this show with my kid?’” Miller said. “Even as recent as this past winter, kids were still watching the first season and were having more suicidal thoughts and parents are really feeling at a loss with how to handle it.”

Miller said the best things parents can do is ensure their children know they can speak to them and not hesitate to reach out to supports in their community, including their family doctor.

“We think it’s much better to watch the show with your teens, to open the discussion with them,” Miller said.

There’s also a disconnect from adult characters, both parents and teachers, and teens in the show. In some cases, the teens turned to alcohol and violence when faced with problems.

“The truth is, some teens will perceive their parents that way,” Miller said. “What we want parents to show their teens is that they can handle it, that they are aware – and if they aren’t aware of mental health, there are a lot of resources to learn about it…

“We want parents to talk with their kids to say nothing is off limits here, because these things are happening in a kid’s world, they’re going to talk to their friends about it and research online, and its much better if they can talk to their parents about it and get the sense that their parents can take it and want to be in it with them discussing these things.”

Parents and teens can visit the Foundry Foundation for more information.

If you or anyone you know needs support for depression or suicide-related mental health problems, call the Canadian Assistance in Suicide Prevention 24/7 hotline at 1-888-353-2273.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Left, Rowena Leivo early on in her volunteer career with the South Surrey/White Rock Food Bank. Right, Leivo in the food bank Tuesday. (Contributed photos)
After 34 years, ‘The Boss’ retires from South Surrey Food Bank volunteer gig

Rowena Leivo, 90, spent a third of her life volunteering at the food bank

Surrey RCMP cruisers outside a Newton townhouse Tuesday night. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
UPDATE: Toddler in hospital, woman dead following stabbings at Surrey townhouse

Police say two-year-old was among victims found at townhouse complex in the 12700-block of 66 Avenue

A reminder to students at Surrey’s Strawberry Hill Elementary to physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Diamond School in Surrey reporting COVID-19 exposure

INTERACTIVE TABLE: Search for schools, organize by exposure dates

Matthew Campbell, director of the Fraser Valley Regional Food Bank, stands amongst a large amount of non-perishable food and household items being stored inside the Pacific Community Church. This year’s ‘Halloween For Hunger’ food drive, put on by students at Clayton Heights, will go to benefit the Fraser Valley Regional Food Bank. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Clayton Heights Secondary kicks off annual ‘Halloween for Hunger’ event

Students to collect much-needed items for food bank

Ali Watson in Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of “No Child…,” which plays until Nov. 8. (photo: Moonrider Productions)
Viewers of Arts Club’s streaming plays support Surrey Civic Theatres

Company’s ‘bubble method’ of theatre production means just 50 in-person tickets for each performance

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter at Kitimat competes against producers in the Middle East and Russia that have no carbon tax. (Rio Tinto)
B.C. carbon tax highest in Canada, export industries unprotected

B.C. NDP, B.C. Liberals say they’re looking at exemptions

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

In this file photo, snow is seen falling along the Coquihalla Highway. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
Weather statement issued for Coquihalla, Hwy 3, as arctic front approaches

The early season snowfall expected to hit Fraser Valley, Friday, Oct. 23

(Pixabay)
Vancouver teacher suspended after swearing, touching students and complimenting underwear

McCabe touched students, including rubbing their backs and necks, touching their hair and hugging them

The website Chigoby is among eight scam online retailers that have been identified by the Better Business Bureau. The site was fraudulently using an Abbotsford residential address, but has since switched to one in Poland.
8 scam online-shopping websites fraudulently use Abbotsford address

Better Business Bureau says victims lost hundreds for non-existent or poor-quality products

Most Read