School Districts Addressing Popular Netflix Series About Suicide

April 21, 2017 06:13 PM

Three weeks ago Netflix released an original series titled 13 Reasons Why, and some area school districts are taking notice.

The series is about a young female student who kills herself, leaving behind a series of tapes calling out the names of people she blames for her suicide. Because of the show's topic, some local schools are addressing it.

Wayzata Public Schools sent out an email to middle and high school parents Thursday stating:  

"We wanted to make sure parents are aware that students appear to be highly interested in this show. They are talking about it with each other and several students have reported to us that they believe the show glamorizes the idea of suicide. We encourage you to talk to your sons and daughters about the show, if you are allowing them to watch it or it is otherwise coming up in conversation. Ask them questions and process it with them. This letter is not intended as a recommendation to view the series, but to assist you with more information and talking points relevant to the wellbeing of your child and our students."

Before this series was even released, Netflix reached out to Dr. Dan Reidenberg with Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) in Bloomington asking if he'd watch the series and offer feedback. He did, and Netflix didn't like his feedback.



"This has become a really big issue for schools," Reidenberg said.

He says suicide can be prevented and the series doesn't show that.

"As much as I'd like to say there could be something positive, I haven't found anything positive," he added.

Reidenberg has written talking points about the series, and school districts from around the country have sent them out to students and families.

"We don't memorialize people like this, we want people to be remembered for the good things they do and the happy times they've had in life, and we want them to be remembered for how they've overcome obstacles and challenges, not for dying by suicide this way," he said.

While the struggles some of the characters in the series experience may be very real for teens, Reidenberg says they need to understand it's fiction, and there are other ways to deal with problems.

"I know there have been people who have attempted suicide because of this, I know somebody who has died of suicide because of this. I know people right in this community, a young woman, who attempted in the very same method depicted on the show, twice this week. I am struggling to find the good in it. I am hoping what comes out of it, on some level, is that parents do find a way to have a conversation with kids," Reidenberg said.

Reidenberg suggested if children watch the show, it is best for parents to have discussions with their children about what occurs in each episode.

He says school districts are frantically reaching out to him because of this series. His hope is that districts will talk about the issue proactively.


Jessica Miles

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