The following information was pasted from Tim Elmore's Growing Leaders blog. The 13 Reasons Why program on Netflix is stirring a lot of conversation. While the content isn't middle school age appropriate due to its nature (it contains scenes of self-mutilating and a graphic rape), a surprising number of Awtrey students are talking about it. Elmore provides an excellent resource for anyone connected with students to use as talking points to help students process the program contents in a safe environment.
13 REASONS WHY: HOW TO TALK TO YOUR TEENS ABOUT THE SHOW
Suicide. It’s never a happy topic to talk about. And now,
Netflix has sponsored a television series called, “13 Reasons Why” to showcase
the issue. I am hearing more and more high school and college students talking
about it, too.
In the show, Hannah has committed suicide, but has left
tapes describing why she felt it was necessary and all the events (including
bullying, rape, partying, and more) that led up to her decision to end her
life. Hannah narrates her story as we see the remaining students in awkward
moments grieving her loss—not knowing what to say or whether they should feel
regret, anger, or something entirely different. In particular, the story
focuses around the thoughts and actions of Zach and Clay who were both close to
the situation and, consequently, haunted by Hannah’s death. The show highlights
the tangible loneliness high school students feel too often, and the depression
and angst that follow both the trivial and serious incidents that teens often
I have said for years the stakes have become too high in our
teen’s lives today. Events that might have caused a “bad day” when I was in
school are now sources for a bad life today. According to the Jason Foundation:
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24.
More teens or young adults die from suicide than from
cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, pneumonia, influenza and lung
There have been more military deaths from suicide than from
battle in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Each day in our nation, there are an average of over 5,240
suicide attempts by young people in grades 7-12.
What’s more, four out of five teens who attempt it—give
clear warning signs.
The show has many parents, school leaders, and counselors
concerned. One superintendent cited the show as the catalyst for a string of
self-harming incidents in his school system. In response, Netflix has updated
the show to include trigger warnings before particularly graphic episodes
depicting both the act of suicide and rape. They also released a documentary
(again, on Netflix) where actors and actresses in the show discuss their
decisions to take part in this troubling story. Naturally, many parents and
leaders, including myself, believe the ultimate solution is for teens,
especially those under 18 and those struggling with mental health, self-harm,
or suicidal thoughts, to simply not watch the show at all. The trouble is, as
with much content on the internet, many of our teens have already seen it.
So how do we talk about this topic and this show, 13 Reasons
Why with our students? I’ve had some of our blog readers request some
discussion points for this topic. Let me suggest a few starter questions for
Questions to Discuss with Your Students:
1. How can people
feel lonely when they are never alone and always connected?
2. Why do kids often
feel depressed as they post happy pics on social media?
3. We know that life
is always better than death. But why is that so?
4. What enables a
student to hide their loneliness or angst, and later surprise people with a
5. When is it time to
“give a friend space” and when must we intrude if we suspect someone is
6. What drives a
person over the line when they believe ending their life is better than pushing
ahead with life?
7. If you or someone
you know is considering suicide, where should or could you go to get help?
(Hint: make sure to mention: school counselors, parents,
teachers, administration, and suicide hotlines [below])
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal
thoughts, text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or call the National Suicide
Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.