“13 Reasons Why” and What Should be Done

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A recently renewed Netflix series about suicide is causing controversy around the country and right here in Naperville.

Based on the book by Jay Asher, in the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” teenager Hannah Baker takes her own life and leaves her peers behind with tapes revealing what drove her to do it.

It all plays out in a suspenseful 13 episode drama that’s caught the attention of many youth in our area – a cause of concern for mental health professionals.

“It kind of places a little bit of glamour on this in our society and suicide is something that should be taken very seriously. Nobody should die from suicide,” said Gina Sharp, President of Linden Oaks at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

The topics covered may be shocking for those not expecting it, with explicit scenes of self-induced violence, sexual assault and bullying.

“I was really shocked that they would put that in a show that seemed to be marketed toward high school students because I know a lot of people who would see scenes like that and maybe get upset or may want to harm themselves after those types of scenes,” said Nicolle DiMaria, a student at Naperville North High School.

But some mental health professionals say there’s some worth to the watch, arguing it could spark an important discussion about what might go on in a teens life.

“They did show bullying in a very correct light. Some of that stuff has happened to me, has happened to my friends, everyone gets backstabbed, has rumors spread about them, so they did go about that in a good way,” added DiMaria.

Some professionals encourage parents to watch with their kids and have an open conversation afterwards.

“We just want to provide an opportunity to be able to talk about what they saw and help them better understand what they saw,” said Kandice Henning, the Executive Director of the Alive Center.

District 204 recently sent parents information on things to discuss with your child after they’ve seen the show.

Those include a checklist from Harvard Health Publications: letting your child know that Hannah’s feelings are common, that there are better solutions than suicide, to talk to someone if you are considering suicide, take the problem seriously and realize the consequences of your words or actions.

“Being able to have communication not just experts within Linden Oaks, doctors, therapists, but parents and teachers, counselors, coaches. So that if the topics are being brought up in different settings, we’re all able to have some of that dialogue with their kid about it,” added Sharp.

The National Association of School Psychologists also warned that kids who are vulnerable and easily influenced should not watch the show.

Naperville News 17’s Alyssa Bochenek reports.