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Indiana school district sends letter of concern to parents about Netflix show ‘13 Reasons Why’

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The popular Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” is stirring up debate between viewers.

The show details the story of a high school girl who commits suicide; she then leaves behind a series of recordings explaining why she did it.

So far the show has caused massive amounts of engagement on social media. It has also stirred a debate on whether the show succeeds at addressing the tough topic of teen suicide, or romanticizes the act of taking your own life.

Out of concern for mixed messages the show could be sending, Dr. Colleen Moran, the superintendent of the North Montgomery School Corporation sent a detailed letter home to parents.

In the letter Moran writes:

“There are positive messages about the importance of treating people with kindness -- and about the price of inaction -- that parents and teachers may want to help teen viewers to think and talk about. However, we know that many students are watching this series independently.  A student as young as 12 years old has reported watching it. Without a caring, trusted adult discussing the content and answering questions, there is concern for students who may already be at-risk for self-harm."

Lisa Brattain, a Regional Director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, says the show does include themes and images that could be troubling for teens already at risk for mental health issues.

However, she says that if parents or guardians engage their children about the show, then those risks can be mitigated. Brattain says the most important thing parents or guardians can do is engage their children on the topic and the questions the show may conjure.

“For people that have young folks who are watching it, sit down and watch it with them. For parents, arm yourself about mental illness because the show doesn’t do a good job of the framework and where mental illness comes from….Have that conversation with your children that it’s just as important to ask for help if these things are happening to you because we want to address mental health distress before it gets to a suicide crisis,” she said.

Indiana has struggled in recent years with suicide. According to the Indiana Youth Institute (IYI) Databook, Indiana sees higher-than average suicide rates among its youth.

According to the Databook:

About 1 in 5 high schoolers thought about suicide

About 1 in 5 high schoolers made a suicide plan

About 1 in 10 high schoolers attempted suicide

About 1 in 25 high schoolers attempted suicide and needed medical attention

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, you can call the teen suicide hotline at 1-800-suicide. Or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255).