Netflix series '13 Reasons Why' raising concerns about depiction of suicide
Published Wednesday, April 26, 2017 6:39PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, April 26, 2017 6:55PM EDT
Lake Korte-Moore's 19-year-old cousin had mental health issues before tragedy struck.
"She ended up killing herself by jumping off a bridge," says the Grade 12 student. "That really affected my family."
It's made watching Netflix's new original show '13 Reasons Why' difficult at points.
"It does hurt sometimes because you think of the feelings that people are feeling in the show and you think about your own experiences with it and your family's experiences with it, it touches you in a way," Korte-Moore says.
The show is about a teenager named Hannah who dies by suicide, but leaves tapes behind for her classmates explaining why she made that decision.
It's drawing ire for the way it depicts suicide, with some saying it's being glorified.
"Someone who's maybe really feeling isolated and alone, to see them can give them the wrong idea and be very triggering with regards to their own feelings of suicidality," says Andrea Poncia, coordinator of the Community Suicide Prevention Network.
The series has prompted messages from school boards across the province, including here in Ottawa.
"Series like this one can lead to misconceptions and misinformation about suicide, and possibly to the glorification of suicide and suicide contagion," the Ottawa-Carleton board said in a message to families.
School Mental Health Assist, an organization that works alongside the Ministry of Education, also sent an email to Mental Health Leadership teams at all Ontario school boards.
"Use of the Netflix series, '13 reasons why', as a teaching tool is not recommended. The material is graphic and potentially triggering for vulnerable young people," it said.
"The conversation that's been inspired by (the series) is growing in sophistication so that people are understanding that it's not just talking about it but it's how we talk about it is so critical," says director of SMH-Assist Dr. Kathy Short.
Students say the series has shortfalls.
"I don't think you should show suicides or show rapes that graphically for something intended for teenage audiences because we're really vulnerable emotionally," says one.
"I think it was a little unrealistic and I think it encouraged the idea that suicide's more of a revenge rather than something people actually do to escape their life," says another.
"I’ve been really heartened when I hear students say, they get it. They can look past the flaws of the show and get the big idea and that we all need to be more compassionate for one another," Dr. Short says.
Parents are being encouraged to talk about the series if their kids are watching it.
"Talk to them about it and sort of problematize it for them. So for example, ask them what they like and dislike. When I had this conversation with my nephew, he had some really good reflections on what the flaws are in the show," says Poncia.
"The most important thing is to really listen and be non-judgmental and empathetic. That’s really important and not be afraid if to ask if they’re thinking of suicide."
Here are some resources for teens and parents that might need help: