NEWTON (CBS) – Some local school districts are warning parents about a popular new show on Netflix that centers on the suicide of a teenager.
“13 Reasons Why” is about a high schooler who takes her own life and leaves behind clues explaining why.
In a letter to parents, Newton Public Schools calls the series concerning.
“As a community that has felt the tragic impact of youth suicide, we are particularly concerned about the content of this series,” Superintendent David Fleishman wrote. “These issues are extraordinarily challenging and may be difficult for some students to process in a healthy and appropriate way.”
Mount Alvernia High School eighth-grader Mary Kate Carr is among the many teens that watched the show.
“More people are watching it because more people know it’s such a serious topic,” she commented.
Junior Caitlin O’Brien said, “There’s so much stigma about mental illness and suicide, not to talk about it, don’t show anything about it. This show brought it to life.”
The series left senior Amanda McFarland feeling like Hollywood had glamorized suicide leaving an unrealistic impression that with these tapes, maybe it’s not so final. “She blames people for suicide and the way she does it the series acts as if she’s going to see the revenge she’s getting on people.”
Fleishman is encouraging parents to ask their child if they know about the show. If they want to see it, he recommends that parents preview it first or watch it with them, and talk about the issues the show raises.
“Suicide is a very tough issue,” Fleishman told WBZ-TV. “I think we have a special responsibility to let our community know that they need to work with their children in addressing tough issues.”
Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, tells CBS News that the show is not for every teenager – and that “binge-watching” all 13 episodes back-to-back could be overwhelming.
“I would watch it if your kid is in a solid state of mental health. If you have a kid who is struggling or is some years out from a mental health issue — anyone who’s had a suicide attempt or become suicidal — they should just stay away from this show,” Moutier said.
Child psychiatrist Dr. Nancy Rappaport of Harvard Medical School believes a wide door has now been opened. “They clearly got something right because they grabbed the attention of teenagers. Our job as adults is to provide the scaffolding for discussions that happen.”
Wilmington and Acton-Boxborough schools have suggested not watching it at all, and instead provide information about suicide prevention efforts, and suggested questions and topics for parents to discuss with their children.