Now the series about a suicidal teen produced by Selena Gomez includes resources for discussing mental health and sexual assault with kids.
When “13 Reasons Why” hit Netflix last year, its graphic content including teen suicide, rape and bullying had parents, teachers and teenagers ailke up in arms. In fact, a recent Northwestern University survey found that one-third of teens and young adults who watched the first season said it was “too graphic” for them.
So for the second season released on Friday, the streaming service and the show producers, who include Selena Gomez, have added content advisories and resources to help viewers prepare themselves for the unsettling subject matter, along with tools for talking about what they’ve just watched, and where they can go for help.
“From the beginning we believed this series had the potential to be a powerful agent for change, and we saw a global conversation emerge with the launch of Season 1,” Netflix vice president of original series Brian Wright wrote in a blog post. “In March, we added additional resources to support our viewers for the upcoming season of 13 Reasons Why.”
That includes an updated discussion guide created with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which includes videos on talking to teens about the show, as well as spotting signs of depression and recognizing the many different forms of bullying. There are also videos featuring the young cast of the show encouraging kids to talk to someone if they feel overwhelmed — and even suggesting that those struggling with the issues seen on the show should avoid tuning in, or that they should watch with a trusted adult.
The series is based on the 2007 bestselling young adult novel of the same name that follows a high school junior named Hannah who is stalked, sexually harassed and bullied, witnesses a friend getting raped, and then gets raped herself before committing suicide. She then recounts why she killed herself by sending her classmates 13 cassette tapes that she recorded before her suicide, which reveal how her eroding self esteem pushed her toward hurting herself.
The show was supposed to spark discussion about the very serious issues that kids and teens are facing in school every day. Gomez defended it on “Good Morning America,” saying, “We wanted to do it in a way that was honest, and we wanted to make something that could hopefully help people.” She’s also tweeted that the show’s season two soundtrack — which includes music by Gomez — will donate a portion of the proceeds from album sales to The Trevor Project serving LGBTQ youth in crisis, as well as the Crisis Text Line.
— Selena Gomez (@selenagomez) May 15, 2018
But many parents, teachers and health care professionals worried that the show was actually encouraging the suicidal and self-destructive behavior it was supposed to prevent. And they have reason to be concerned. The journal Pediatrics just published a study on Wednesday reporting the rate of children and teens hospitalized for thinking about or attempting suicide almost tripled between 2008 and 2015, with the highest rate of increase among teenage girls.
Even more alarming, Today.com cited a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that reported there were 1.5 million more suicide-related Google searches than expected in the 19-days after “13 Reasons Why” debuted last spring, including a 26% increase in queries on “how to commit suicide,” with searches for “commit suicide” and “how to kill yourself” climbing 18% and 9% higher, respectively. And a survey of 14 pediatric emergency services found a 13% spike in patients after the show premiered, with 40% noticing patients with suicidal behavior that imitated the show.
So for the second season, which sees Hannah’s grieving family suing the school for negligence, Netflix is running a custom intro video featuring the cast out of character talking about resources to get help, which will play automatically before each season. There is also an enhanced content advisory with more specific information about the show’s rating, which will pop up each time you begin to watch the show. And parents who want to watch this series or other Netflix content first to decide whether it’s suitable for their children can activate a PIN parental control for individual movies and series. More info can be found here.
Netflix has also created the 13ReasonsWhy.info resource page to encourage troubled youth to get help by highlighting the free and confidential 24/7 Crisis Text Line (text REASON to 741741) and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), as well as more resources to get help.
And SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) has also built a online 13 Reasons Why Toolkit with doctors for parents, teens, educators, clinicians and the media to learn how to talk about the show.
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