There is a lot of diverse conversation online and in the community regarding
the Netflix show
13 Reasons Why, which is adapted from author
Jay Asher's best-selling young adult novel of the same title. The show addresses the topic of
suicide and the complexity of mental health and adolescent / peer / parent relationships.
The show is not for the faint of heart. It is visually graphic in some
instances, and emotion-provoking in many others. Any parent should be
cautious about having their child, no matter their age, watch it.
The main concern with the show, it appears, is will it encourage or trigger
someone who is suicidal to act on those thoughts. The answer is that is
unlikely. The decision to commit suicide does not appear to be decided
by one incident, but rather by a variety of issues combined with a mental
health disorder. Most people who commit suicide (up to 90%) have an underlying
mental health disorder.
The biggest impact that the show has had is the conversation it has started
about suicide. For too long we have had these conversations AFTER a tragic
situation. The show gives us as parents, and as a community, an opportunity
to discuss the impact of suicide BEFORE it happens in real life. The primary
conversation needs to take place with parents and their kids. There is
no positive impact without conversations.
The most effective solution, if a child is adamant about watching it, is
to watch the show together and have open conversations. That way parents
and kids have an opportunity to be on the same page at the same time.
The internet-age has made everything accessible to everyone. The more
the show is talked about, the more curious kids will be. Let’s face
these questions and uncertainties together.
Here are a couple tips for starting a conversation about suicide taken from the
Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide:
- Timing is everything! Pick a time when you have the best chance of getting
your child’s attention. Sometimes a car ride, for example, assures
that you have a captive, attentive audience. Or a suicide that has received
media attention can provide an opportunity to bring up the topic.
- Think about what you want to say ahead of time and rehearse a script if
necessary. It always helps to have a reference point—try something
like, “I was reading in the paper that youth suicide has been increasing…”
or “I saw that your school is having a program for teachers on suicide
- This is a hard subject for you to talk about with your child, so admit
it! Say something like, “You know, I never thought this was something
I’d be talking with you about, but I think it’s really important”.
By acknowledging your discomfort, you give your child permission to acknowledge
their discomfort, too.
- Ask for your child’s response. And be direct! Try something like:
“What do you think about suicide?”; “Is it something
that any of your friends talk about?”; “Have you ever thought
about it? What about your friends?”
- Listen to what your child has to say. You’ve asked the questions,
so simply consider your child’s answers. If you hear something that
worries you, be honest about that, too. For example: “What you’re
telling me has really gotten my attention and I need to think about it
some more. Let’s talk about this again, OK?”
- Don’t overreact or under react. Overreaction will close off any future
communication on the subject. Under reacting, especially in relation to
suicide, is often just a way to make ourselves feel better. ANY thoughts
or talk of suicide should ALWAYS be revisited—even if your child
says, “I felt that way a while ago but don’t any more.”
Remember that suicide is an attempt to solve a problem that seems impossible
to solve in any other way. Ask about the problem that created the suicidal
thoughts. This can make it easier to bring up again in the future, such
as, “I wanted to ask you again about the situation you were telling
Also, feel free to check out
Tips for Watching New Netflix Series 13 Reasons Why provided by
Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE).
If a crisis is mounting, or you are having thoughts of suicide, please
do not hesitate to talk to someone who can help at the numbers below:
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK (8255)
- Text “ENERGY” to 741-741
Behavioral Health Services Crisis Line at 307.688.5050
And, if you or someone you know is in immediate danger because of thoughts
of suicide call 911 NOW; learn more at
This blog was co-authored by Jeff Rice and
Brian J. Edwards, LMFT, CATC. Jeff is the director of
Behavioral Health Services (BHS), and Brian is a clinical supervisor at BHS at
Campbell County Memorial Hospital in Gillette, Wyoming. BHS provides professional mental health and substance
abuse services to the community through prevention, education, advocacy
and treatment for all ages in the community. Appointments are available
Monday–Friday from 8 am–5 pm. Call 307.688.5000. Learn more at