13 Reasons Why – Resources
In a prior post I provided a link to resources related to the hit Netflix Series “13 Reasons Why” (13RW) – and a little while after that, SPRC compiled resources and put together a page of their own. Their list is well organized, and will likely be the “go to” spot for the suicide prevention community.
13 Reasons Why – My experience
I promised to provide my honest thoughts about the series after watching it, and although I disappeared for a little while (more on that at the end of this post), I recorded my thoughts after each episode. Here are some of the things I had to note:
- First, Netflix selected 13 Reasons Why as a show it thought I would be interested in with 98% confidence. Apparently, I fit the profile of one of their intended audience segments? #LivedExp
- I found myself drawn into the story – something like a murder mystery drama but with a suicidal twist.
- It’s hard not to be concerned about the characters that struggle in the aftermath of Hannah’s suicide. Is Alex going to die next? Is Clay going to lose his mind? Is Justin going off the deep end? How far down will Jessica descend?
- There’s a harsh dose of reality in the presentation that the attention to suicide prevention often does only come after a student dies by suicide. Similarly, the attention to drinking and driving usually comes after a fatal accident.
- I’m amazed at the degree of cluelessness and ineptitude among the adults in the series. From the school administrators and professionals through the parents of the kids, the extent to which they are oblivious about the teen issues is astounding.
- No Clay, you didn’t kill Hannah Baker. Hannah killed Hannah. Nobody successfully stopped her from doing that, but it isn’t the same thing. However, the writers sure seem to want to convince folks that it is the fault of everyone around Hannah that she dies.
I also watched the “Beyond 13 Reasons” segment that follows after Season One. It’s an informative 30-minute segment, and after watching it I came away thinking that it wasn’t primarily a suicide story – they wanted this to be a story about bullying and sexual assault, punctuated by a suicide.
Analysis of the Response to 13 Reasons Why
We need to reinforce that this is fiction. Almost every concern about what kids will learn, or what they will conclude, is based on the line between reality and fiction becoming blurred. Dan Reidenberg of SAVE made this point in the webinar hosted by Kognito. Both the National Association of School Psychologists and “The Mediatrician” make similar points. It might make sense to play a clip like this:
Why? I don’t recommend it because I think they are giving great advice. I think it could help because 2 of the main actors are out of character, talking (and looking) more happy and relaxed. She doesn’t even sound like Hannah when she’s out of character! Imagine if Netflix had done what the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology (SCCAP) suggested:
Yet, the series misses the opportunity to teach teens about mental health, how to spot the signs of a friend in trouble, and how to seek help. A more responsible approach would have been to provide information at the end of each episode with resources for teens about how to deal with these issues and seek help. Instead, the series leaves the viewer with no resources or advice for dealing with these complex issues.
If actors from the show broke out of character after an episode to discuss resources for help it could have had a double effect: (1) Reinforce that what the viewer just saw was fiction, and these are not real stories and (2) Get useful information about the important issues on the show. If they did that then maybe they’d be eligible for a SAMHSA Voice Award in the future.
Response to 13 Reasons Why – What’s been missing (until now)?
Like I said above, I think that the SCCAP called it right. Folks need specific resources and advice to deal with the complex issues that come out in the show. The suicide prevention and mental health organizations have done a good job at raising awareness about the potential harms from violating the media guidelines, and have also pointed to mental health resources that parents and others might go to for help.
To use a sports analogy, Netflix tossed out the ball and made everyone pay attention to the game taking place. The suicide prevention field has named the game, outlined the rules, and provided instructions to the parents and teens thrust into play. However, what parents have been missing is a coach who will help them carry out the next steps.
That was my realization as I compiled resources related to 13RW and that was the driving force for developing a new book to help coach parents: 13 Answers for the 13 Reasons Why: An Episode-by-Episode Mental Health Resource Guide for Parents.
This post fulfills my promise to revisit the topic. It took a month to get back to this, but I wanted to get the book done first.