SANDY, Utah – Some Utah schools are concerned over the Netflix hit, “13 Reasons Why” after it sparked a national debate about mental health and suicide when it debuted last year.
Before season two airs sometime this year, Canyons School District is arming parents and teachers with some tips on how to address it with students.
The exact plot of season two of “13 Reasons Why” is not known, but the trailer suggests a school shooting storyline – among the difficult topics explored in season one such as sexual assault, substance abuse, and suicide.
The fictional series, based on a 2007 book, centers around a high school student who takes her own life, leaving behind 13 audio recordings on cassette tapes.
Criticized for glorifying suicide and sending a dangerous message to teens, Netflix announced in March they’re adding a warning to the beginning of each episode of season two.
“We saw with season one that the content of the show was very mature in nature,” said Torilyn Gillette, school counseling program director for Canyons School District.
Gilette said students not only binge-watched the series, but many identified with the characters.
“It invoked a lot of strong emotions in them especially some of our more vulnerable students. We were seeing a lot of anxiety. A lot of depression with students. Increased suicide ideation," Gilette said.
With season two coming out, Gillette is sending out a warning of her own.
“I think parents can make their own decision on what`s best for their family,” said Gillette. “However, I do encourage parents to preview it first and/or watch it with them and so they can have those conversations with them.”
She also advised that parents look for any changes in their children's behavior after they’ve watched the show.
“Anytime students who are vulnerable already are exposed to that kind of material, it could invoke some of that in them as well,” said Gillette.
More importantly, Gilette said it is vital for parents to reassure their children that there is help available.
“We need to keep that dialogue open so students know that people are there to listen and as adults, we're there for their support," she said.
For more information on how to address “13 Reasons Why” with your children, click here:
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, help is available 24/7 by calling 1-800-273-TALK. Utahns can also visit Hope4Utah and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center for additional resources. You can also download the SafeUT app for instant, confidential crisis services.