You are likely aware of the new Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. Adapted from the young adult fiction novel by Jay Asher, the story revolves around a senior high-school student named Hannah Baker, who dies by suicide and leaves behind a series of cassette tapes explaining her reasons for suiciding and her perspective on the role her peers played.
Much concern has been raised about the series’ graphic and sensationalized portrayal of suicide and sexual assault. The show’s content does not follow the media guidelines from the American Association of Suicidology and the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP). Some specific concerns are that the television series glorifies and legitimizes the choice of suicide, reinforces a hopeless message that nothing can be done to prevent it, and perpetuates the idea that suicide has someone to blame.
At the same time, the Netflix series also presents an opportunity for youth and adults to discuss important issues such as: the meaning of friendship, how teenagers might support each other, the harmful risks of mistreatment among peers, and the reality of suicide: understanding the complexity of why people may have and act on suicidal thoughts and awareness of how it is often missed, dismissed or avoided.
The Jed Foundation provides suggestions for young viewers and parents:
- Be thoughtful and considerate about watching the series. If you have been struggling with anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide, it is likely too risky to watch.
- If you choose to watch the show, pay attention to how you are feeling. If you are finding yourself having trouble sleeping, feeling distraught, having thoughts of suicide, stop watching it and let a parent, trusted adult or counsellor know.
- If at any time you have thoughts of suicide, you can call 1-800-784-2433 for help 24/7.
- For those who choose to watch the show, consider watching it with others and taking breaks between episodes instead of binge-watching. It would be especially good to watch with parents or other trusted adults. Discuss what you are seeing and experiencing along the way.
- This show does provide an opportunity to explore and discuss the meaning of friendship and how we make choices when we or friends are having troubles or are struggling. Viewers should consider how they might have made different choices from those made by characters in the story.
Whether you choose to watch this show or not, the Crisis Centre would like to extend an invitation of hope that together we can work to prevent suicide. For 48 years, our Centre has witnessed everyday how lives can be saved.
What can be done?
Remember that help is available.
If you – or someone you know – is struggling emotionally or showing signs indicating possible suicide thoughts, get them (or yourself) help.
Help Available in BC:
- 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) – 24 hours a day
- Online Crisis Chat – crisiscentre.bc.ca – Noon to 1am daily
In other provinces: http://suicideprevention.ca/need-help/
Each year, our centre responds to over 6000 suicide related calls and chats, where we help people stay in the moment and offer follow up support for ongoing safety.
Become suicide alert. Become more ready, willing and able to respond to suicide.
Each year, the Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre trains over 1000 people from over 100 different agencies to be more ready, willing and able to prevent suicide. We offer Living Works programs, which are evidence based, internationally recognized training in suicide response: safeTALK and ASIST. These life-promoting and empowering training programs are suitable for people from all backgrounds including mental health professionals, school staff, youth workers, first responders, health care providers, and community members who want to make a difference. Over 90% of those who take our skill based training programs feel significantly better able to respond to suicide.
Foster resilient and safer communities.
At its most fundamental level, suicide prevention is about individual and community well-being. Many different activities may fall into this realm, including anti bullying programs, mental health support and sexual assault prevention. Our Centre offers programs for adults and youth that support wellness, emotional regulation and self-awareness as a way to help us build internal resiliency. We invite you to participate in our Mindfulness Self Care workshop, and if you work with youth, to consider our youth wellness workshops and our multi session mindfulness program which fosters seeds of resiliency.
Be part of our team.
Each year over 400 volunteers dedicate themselves to being part of a community response to suicide prevention by providing support on phones and chat, and in sharing skills with young people. Check out opportunities to make a difference – volunteer opportunities in Distress Services, Community Learning and Engagement’s Youth Program and Administration.
For more interesting perspectives on 13 Reasons Why and how to use it to promote discussion on suicide prevention:
- Jed Foundation – 13 Reasons Why: Jed Point of View
- Living Works – 13 Reasons Why: What’s Next
- Left Behind by Suicide – 13 Reasons Why: Like it or not we need to talk about it
- Centre for Suicide Prevention: Statement re: Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why series
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: A Teachable Moment: Using 13 Reasons Why to Initiate a Helpful Conversation about Suicide Prevention and Mental Health