BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A controversial Netflix series is causing school districts across the country, and in Maryland, to warn parents about the risks of teen suicide.
The show, called “13 Reasons Why,” tackles not only suicide, but sexual assault and teenage drinking in very graphic terms.
The series is narrated by Hannah Baker, a troubled high school student who has recorded a series of audio tapes describing 13 reasons why she has taken her own life.
The program’s unflinching look at teen suicide is causing concern among school districts nationwide.
They’re sending letters to parents ‘warning’ the show may be perceived as glorifying and romanticizing suicide.
Dr. Christina Conolly works for Montgomery County Schools, where she helped write a letter saying “adolescents watching without an adult could be at an increased risk of self-harm.”
Netflix responded to the concerns in a statement “we gave the series a TV-MA rating and added explicitly warnings on the three most graphic episodes. We hope that ’13 Reasons Why’ can serve as a catalyst for conversation.”
Tara Gogolinski is a therapist with Family and Children’s Services. She’s watched the series, and so have her teen clients. She says the show never talks about mental health or all the resources available to teens in pain.
“Ninety-six percent of suicides, there’s a mental health component to it, so they’re experiencing depression, anxiety, trauma, and none of that’s addressed in the series,” she says.
So does the show encourage suicide or open the discussion?
“There’s a myth out there that if I bring up suicide with my child, or with an adolescent, and that plants the idea, or that increases the likelihood of doing it and the research really dispells that, that’s not the case,” says Gogolinski.
The series’ executive producer is actress and singer Selena Gomez, who herself struggles with depression.
“They have to see something that’s gonna shake them… the show is as real as it possibly could get,” says Gomez.
A real show that hopefully leads to real family dialogue.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports, among teens 15 to 19, suicide is second leading cause of death.
There will be more opportunities to have open discussion.
“13 reasons why” was released in March, but already, writers are working on a second season.