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13 Reasons Why Netflix Original Series

by Jodi Shaw

Mental health officials are calling it irresponsible. Schools are warning teens not to watch it. Even Paris Jackson struck out on Instagram saying it’s a trigger and can put you in a dark place. So what is everyone talking about? They’re talking about Netflix Original Series “13 Reasons Why” a story that revolves around the suicide of a 17-year-old girl. 

Katherine Langford playing (Hannah) is a young woman in high school who takes her own life. After her death, a boy who had a crush on her and classmate (Clay) finds a box on his doorstep with recordings made by Hannah explaining 13 reasons why she chose to end her own life. Did Clay make the list? Who else is on it? The story unfolds and is told in two points of view (Clays) and (Hannah’s) and it’s heartbreaking. 

Writer Brian Yorkey who won a Tony for the musical ‘Next to Normal” dealing with mental illness struck back himself saying, “Many people are accusing the show of glamorizing suicide and I feel strongly–and I think everyone who made the show–feels very strongly that we did the opposite. What we did was portray suicide as very ugly and very damaging.”

The the last 3 episodes of the show are extremely graphic. Would I let my 11-year-old son watch it? Yes, I would and will. Why? Well, for starters, I believe the reason so many people are attacking Netflix is because this is a topic that is not comfortable. But neither is parenting, especially parenting a child with a mental illness such as myself. My son has bipolar disorder.

How can you watch the video above and not be moved as a parent? Watching what your kids are watching, getting to know what is upsetting them, questions they have, answering the hard stuff, and even being uncomfortable yourself is part of the job. 13 Reasons Why gets nasty, in your face and provokes those types of discussions that millions of teenagers face more than we care to admit.

82% of Canadian parents admit they are already watching shows like Supernatural, Pretty Little Liars, and Stranger Things just to feel closer to their kids, and teens around the world 74% say they’d be interested in talking more to their parents about shows they watch. It’s a way to bond and even opens up dialogue which is extremely important in today’s society.

When I was in high school, we used to sit in health class and watch ABC After School Specials that dealt with drugs, drinking, death, suicide, teen pregnancy and other topics rotating around sex and puberty. But I never discussed any of these shows with my parents, and I felt very alone. 

I think it’s awesome that shows like 13 Reasons Why are opening up a dialogue between parents and kids, even just to get them talking about the hard stuff like drinking, drugs, preganacy, bullying, and suicide. As someone who has lost people I’ve loved to suicide and someone who has also been there, having a mental illness myself. Talking is so vastly important. It can be the difference between someone taking their own life because they remained silent, or staying here and realizing there is life after this…

Netflix Goes Beyond 13 Reasons

I think that Netflix had done an amazing job in not only producing a teen drama that is so very real, and yes it may cause some to feel triggered, even alone but Netflix is not responsible for the actions or reactions human beings take when engaging in their programming. We as people make our own choices. I also believe the fact they are bringing up tough topics like suicide, bullying, rape and mental illness is more important, especially in light of not only how many teenagers but even adults suffer in silence, for example: Robin Williams. A man who made the world laugh while crying on the inside. 

Netflix met with mental health specialist and have set up several resources. If you’re thinking of watching 13 Reasons Why with your teen and are looking for additional information, here are some ways to help navigate the conversation: 13 Reasons Why Talking Points (created by SAVE.org and the JED Foundation) and the after-show titled 13 Reasons Why: Beyond The Reasons which is a must watch even if you don’t want to watch the show itself, it’s very engaging. If you are immediately concerned about a teen in your life, you can find a list of local market resources on this 13 Reasons Why Global Resource Website

There is a line that Clay uses in the movie after Hannah kills herself when talking to Hannah’s guidance counselor. “It has to get better. The way we treat each other and look out for each other. It has to get better somehow.”

What do you think about 13 Reasons Why? Have you Seen it? Would you watch shows with your teen to open up a dialogue to talk?

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Tasha May 3, 2017 - 8:56 pm

Great post Jodi! When I read the recent news of some Canadian schools banning students from talking about this show while at school because of the ‘disturbing’ subject matter, I was appalled. As someone who has struggled with Major Depression and Mental Illness for the past 20 years, I respectfully disagree with those who feel that these schools including one here in Edmonton are doing the right thing by banning and not allowing conversations at school due to the disturbing subject matter of this show. You are right, it’s an uncomfortable topic for a lot of people, but by not allowing conversation about it, further contributes to the stigma regarding these ‘disturbing’ topics. The principal of the school in Edmonton is either an idiot or deep down he really wants the students to talk about this show. Cause nothing gets kids talking about something more effectively then telling them not to talk about something. Teenagers are really good at not doing what you tell them not to do. That’s why they don’t smoke, drink, skip school, have sex, etc. SMH. It’s important to note where 13 Reasons Why gets it right and that’s with starting a dialogue about the topics we simply don’t talk about enough and only get further shoved under the rug. Conversations about this show should be encouraged, not silenced. Especially in schools because that’s where kids experience the severity of these issues the most. No one should have to suffer in silence, but many do. Ordering students not to talk about the realism of this show at school with their classmates, only helps keep the stigma of mental illness, rape and bullying alive and well. The stigma that keeps too many who are struggling from seeking the help they need. The Streisand Effect.

Jodi Shaw May 4, 2017 - 6:15 pm

I completely agree with you, Tasha, and you know we are both and have been in the same boat suffering with bad thoughts and depression. And yet schools can discuss sexual orientation, like my son’s teacher who a few years ago thought it was okay to discuss her sex life with her same sex partner and huge issues broke out, not about her being gay that wasn’t the issue it was why do the kids need to hear about her sex life while in class, that should be private. But when it’s important issues like this, no they want kids to be silent. It irks me. I think the show gets it all right. Yes, it’s graphic. Yes, the suicide is detailed. But they didn’t want to mask it over, they wanted to show the moment she did it, how she was found and how suicide impacts not just the person but everyone around them, that’s the real reason for the discussion. To say the show is glorifying it and yet says nothing about movies that go out of the way to showcase extreme killing for nothing other than entertainment value. Is dumb. Heheeh maybe you are right about the school principal he might be a very smart man. Kids love doing what they are told not to. πŸ™‚

Soozle April 30, 2017 - 11:34 am

I haven’t watched the show YET, but I have heard such wonderful things about it (even though it’s a very dark show theme wise).. I think teen suicide (well suicide in general) is a subject people are afraid to touch on – so it’s actually nice to see light being brought to the subject and how it affects everyone involved!

Jodi Shaw May 4, 2017 - 6:36 pm

I agree Soozle. You’re right people are afraid but we can’t let fear stop the discussion. So thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. It’s important we all do things like share these posts and talk about things. I think people think that talking about it will make someone do the deed, or push them to, when in reality being ignored and invisible is what usually drives people to do things at their darkest hour.

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