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"13 Reasons Why" Season 2: Opportunity for an Important Conversation about Mental Health and Suicide

     

Last year the debut of the critically acclaimed Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, was received with a lot of attention along with concern from mental health professionals.

The first season of the show deals with the suicide of high school student Hannah Baker and the 13 cassette tapes she left behind to share with the 13 people who she believed ultimately were the influences/reasons that drove her to commit suicide. Strong topics of sexual assault, PTSD, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and school bullying drive the storyline in the Netflix series.

Season two premieres Friday, May 18 and it deals with the aftermath of the first season.

Concerns center around the perceived glorification of Hannah's suicide and the potential for the show to exacerbate problems among vulnerable teens or to lead to copycat behavior. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth and young adults age 10 to 24 (accidents are the leading cause).

A review of research presented at the 2018 APA Annual Meeting earlier this month in New York found that “that both fictional and nonfictional suicide stories have a real effect on the minds of adolescents. This ‘suicide contagion’ is frequently observed in high school and college campuses and is part of a broader effect often known as behavioral contagion or media contagion.”

Several mental health organizations have developed resources to support individuals and families in watching the series and coping with related issues. A new report in the journal Pediatrics urges pediatricians to be aware of the show, to follow guidelines for screening all adolescents 12 and older for depression, and to caution vulnerable patients not to view the series. The National Association of School Psychologists has issued some considerations and cautions in advance of season 2.

An international coalition of experts in mental health, education and suicide prevention (including the American Psychiatric Association APA) issued an alert regarding the second season of the 13 Reasons Why. “We want to make sure the public is aware and prepared for the release of season 2 so that they can be informed and available to youth who want to talk about the issues in the series, as well as for those youth who struggle with the content,” said Dan Reidenberg, Psy.D., Executive Director, Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) and leader the coalition. “While we hope that the series will encourage important conversations and more positive, healthy behaviors, we also are concerned that the series could have negative outcomes for some youth.”

In response to concerns, Netflix has released a video message from cast members cautioning that the series might not be OK for some to watch and has developed a set of resources including a discussion guide.

The resources offered here will help open a conversation with family and friends about difficult topics explored in the show. This is a chance to talk to teens about depression, bullying, self-harm/suicide, and abuse in a safe way and to talk about whether watching the series is right for you and your family.

For Immediate Help

  • Call 800-273-TALK (8255) (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline)
  • Text HOME to 741741 (Crisis Text Line)

Helplines and support services for people in distress outside the U.S., are available at: https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres.

Resources for Parents, Educators and Teens

    • "13 Reasons Why" Resource Center from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Providing information on common risk factors and warning signs; that the best way to talk to someone you’re concerned about; strategies for having a conversation with those who are struggling; and how to connect them to help.
    • 13 Reasons Why Toolkit from Suicide Awareness Voices and Education (SAVE), supported by nearly two dozen mental health organizations, including APA. Provides resources for youth/peers, families, educators and professionals to address the specific topics raised in the episodes.
    • "13 Reasons Why" discussion guide and resources. Not sure where to start? Here is a guide for you and your family on how to discuss the difficult topics and important things to consider if you are planning to re-watch season one.
    • APA Blog: 13 Mental Health Questions about “13 Reasons Why,” addresses issues of warning signs of suicidal behavior, how to help a friend, why people self-harm, and more.
    • Depression Screening Questionnaire provided by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

References

     

AnxietyDepressionPatients and FamiliesAddiction

 

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