“13 Reasons Why” – Talking Points

Concerns about 13 Reasons Why

As many of you may know, the new Netflix series called 13 Reasons Why which depicts a young person’s suicide, is the new ‘hottest’ show for some groups of young people.

There are concerns about the way suicide is portrayed (stigmatized, inevitable, failure of helpers) and also that it could trigger those who are already struggling or have struggled with suicide (graphic depiction).

Here are a few things to consider (from NASP) as well as some Talking Points for those of us in helping professions, working with youth, and/or are parents.

  • Youth tend to mimic other’s behavior and are easily influenced by the norms of their peer group (including what they see in the media). We want to avoid stating or implying that suicidal behavior (not thoughts) are what most people typically do in a situation or that most people would approve of, value, think is cool, or similar (e.g. most youth who are bullied attempt or die by suicide). It’s true that suicide thoughts are common for youth, but acting on them and dying from them is not.
  • A reminder to all that suicide is not the simple consequence of stressors or coping challenges, but rather, it is most typically a combined result of treatable mental illness and overwhelming/intolerable stressors in combination with not reaching out for/getting help (NASP).
  • Despite the portrayal of a serious treatment failure in 13RW, there are many treatment options for life challenges, distress and mental illness. Treatment works. (STOP Suicide Mental Health Resource List)
  • Please encourage people like school administrators, parents, and teachers to engage in supportive conversations with youth as well as provide resources and offer expertise in preventing harmful behaviors.
  • Please see this 3 1/2 minute video as a reminder for how to recognize and respond to suicide risk among youth (and adults).
  • This Netflix series can be seen as a great opportunity to better understand young people’s experiences, thoughts, and feelings by engaging and educating parents, teachers, and youth about suicide warning signs, and reinforcing the message that suicide is not a solution to problems – there are resources out there – and that we are willing to help!

Written by Colleen Carpenter for Mental Health America of Northeast Indiana 

Colleen Carpenter, MA, MPH

Facilitator of STOP Suicide Northeast Indiana

Suicide Prevention Trainer & Consultant



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