School board warns parents about Netflix show depicting teen suicide
Education officials in British Columbia are warning parents about a popular Netflix series that is being accused of glorifying suicide and misrepresenting mental illness.
Produced by pop star Selena Gomez, “13 Reasons Why” is about a teenager who, after taking her own life, leaves behind cassette recordings for the people she blames for her death.
“It is important for parents to know what children are watching and if necessary, engage them in reflective conversations to make sense of what they are seeing on TV or social media,” the Vancouver School Board said in a letter sent to parents earlier this week.
In the letter, the school board also offered a link to guidelines developed by the Suicide Awareness Voices for Education Society about how to talk to children about the show.
The controversial series has drawn praise from TV critics, but widespread condemnation from mental health experts and advocates.
“Revenge is portrayed as the main motive for (the character) killing herself,” Toronto-based child psychiatrist Marshall Korenblum told CTV News. “Revenge is actually a very poor reason because you’re going to be dead. You’re not going to be able to see the guilt or the hurt or whatever you’re hoping to cause.”
And B.C. school boards are not alone in speaking out against the show. School boards and mental health advocates across Canada are airing similar concerns.
Ontario’s Ministry of Education is calling the material “graphic and potentially triggering for vulnerable young people.”
Carol Todd lost her daughter Amanda in 2012 in what has become one of Canada’s most talked-about cases of suicide. Todd says she’s disappointed the show doesn’t offer alternatives, address suicide prevention or give vulnerable viewers hope—something her daughter desperately needed.
“I just wish she had held on for a little bit longer to talk it out,” she said.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth.
In a statement, Netflix said it worked with mental health experts while creating the series and hopes the show will lead to increased conversation about mental health.
With a report from CTV’s Vanessa Lee