13 Reasons Why
with your teen about suicide
Hawaii DOE letter about 13 Reasons Why
school students hope to combat suicide, depression with '13
Reasons Why Not' project
Medford schools respond to "13 Reasons Why"
for a Second Season
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Hannah Baker Tape
Hannah Baker Tape 1
The Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, has caused a furor. In the show, a high school student who has died by suicide has left 13 tapes, one for each person she believes have contributed in some way to her eventual decision. Each episode relates to an individual tape. The penultimate episode depicts the suicide in a gruesome manner. Some say the series is an accurate and sensitive portrayal of the inner angst of an individual that will help enlighten us as to the motivations behind suicidal behaviour and suicide itself. Such an openness can only be good and may be helpful to others in similar predicaments. Critics, though, have worried that it may glamorise suicide or normalise it as a legitimate option when dealing with interpersonal predicamentsleading to more suicides.
It is well known that suicide can be a contagious phenomenon. Copycat suicides are seen in local clusters from time to time. Any possible causes of such contagion should be taken seriously, but the science shows that the role that fiction can play in inspiring suicide is at best unclear. 13 Reasons Why is not the first work of fiction to be embroiled in this type of controversy. Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet has been accused of glamorising suicide. Johann Wolfgang von Goethes novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther, released in 1774, describes the pain and heartache experienced by Werther because of his affection for Charlotte, who eventually married Albert, Werthers friend. Unable to cope, Werther decides that one of them must die and ends up shooting himself with Alberts pistol. It was widely believed that von Goethes work led to a wave of young men deciding to end their lives all over Europe, many of whom were dressed in the same clothing as von Goethes description of Werther and using similar pistols. Some even had the copies of the novel beside their bodies with the page opened to the page of the suicide scene. The suicide researcher, David Phillips, coined the term, The Werther Effect, to refer to the phenomenon of copycat suicides. The result of Phillips research from the 1970s was the recommendation that stories about suicide not be placed on the front page of newspapers.
In Vienna of the 1980s, a spate of subway suicides was combatted by the citys main newspapers decision to substantially curtail the publicity surrounding these deaths. After a certain date, these suicides were no longer mentioned. This coincided with a progressive fall in the number of subway suicides illustrating the power for good of the media.
Counteracting the Werther Effect, though, is the Papageno Effect, taking its name from the character, Papageno in Mozarts Opera The Magic Flute. Papageno tries to hang himself after hes convinced that he will never win over his love, Papagena. He is persuaded, though, by 3 child-spirits not to end his life.
Research has shown that excessive media coverage of suicides of celebrity figures actually has led to an increase in suicide attempts and ideation. Women in their 30s were more at risk of suicide after Marilyn Monroes death in 1962. Suicide experts King-wa Fu and Paul Yip examined the impacts of the deaths of 3 Asian celebrities on suicide using a time series analysis comparing the deaths in the weeks before and after the suicide. They found a substantial rise in the number of suicides in the first, second and third weeks after the death of each celebrity in Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan compared to a reference period. This was even more the case with people of the same gender as the celebrities.
However, the research evidence in relation to fictional portrayals of suicide in TV and film is more complicated. Pirkis and colleagues reviewed the literature regarding film and television drama portrayals of suicide. The group was unable to offer conclusive answers to questions surrounding the impact of fictional suicides on actual suicidal outcomes in the general population.
Studies attempting to assess the effect of broadcasting an episode of the British soap, Eastenders, on March 2nd, 1986 have been conducted. This episode featured an attempted overdose by a female character in her 30s. The studies attempted to assess the attendance at emergency departments in the UK before and after the episode. Some of the studies provided evidence for a copycat effect, but some did not. Mixed findings were reported in others. Therefore, it just cannot be concluded whether fictional portrayals of suicidal behaviour on film and television increase its incidence in the population. While it is certainly true that over-the-top media representations of suicide of celebrity-type figures will have a copycat effect, it does appear that the public at large are able to distinguish fact from fiction.
Nevertheless, we should be aware of
the Werther and Papageno Effects. It is difficult to see how
the fictional portrayal of suicide in an explicit manner
could have a positive effect in any way unless, of course,
the downsides of suicide in terms of its effect on relatives
and friends are also strongly portrayed. From a deterrent
perspective, the gruesome nature of the suicide itself may
be a positive feature, and the same could be said of the
adverse effects on the survivors. However, the message that
suicide can have simple, or a simple set, of causes, or that
suicide represents some type of solution, is unfortunate.
There is never one reason why, or even thirteen.
is there concern about the series?
Why is there concern about the series?
I am a parent. How do I talk with my child about 13RW?
I work with students. What can schools do to keep students safe?
I work in the media. How do I talk about 13RW in my article or reporting?
I lead suicide prevention efforts in my community. How should I address 13RW?
'13 Reasons Why'
poses risks to Oregon youth (Guest opinion)
Since its Netflix release in March 2017, multiple young people in Portland area hospitals have reported they watched the series prior to their own suicide attempt. While the series seeks to capture the agonizing challenges of sexual trauma, bullying and suicide, its content poses a significant risk to vulnerable youth, particularly in the absence of supportive peers and adults.
There are many aspects of the series that represent incorrect notions about the psychology and behavior of most young people who die by suicide. The central character is portrayed as seeking revenge, and the adults in her life appear oblivious to her struggles and incapable of offering support. The overarching message glamorizes suicide as a heroic action while failing to offer any sense of hope or alternatives to self-destruction. In reality, most youth who die by suicide struggle with treatable mental health or substance-use disorders. Suicide is never heroic; rather, it is tragic and preventable.
While Netflix's decision to increase viewer warnings about graphic content may have some value from a legal perspective, it does not do enough to offer specific avenues to seek help. The failure to include suicide prevention resources during each episode is particularly disturbing given the targeted population for the series appears to be teenagers and young adults. This demographic has an elevated risk for completing suicide. Perhaps the greatest concern is well-established evidence that sensational media coverage of suicide clearly leads to increased risk of contagion and clusters of suicide by other youth.
Bullying and shaming through social media, sexual trauma and suicide are very real challenges facing young people and deserve conversation and action. As mental health experts, however, we recommend against the use of "13 Reasons Why" as a tool to encourage conversation about suicide prevention, at any age. Young people who wish to view the program should do so with a supportive adult who can encourage conversation and recommend confidential local and national resources, if necessary.
"13 Reasons Why I Found Help" is the series that we really need to prevent one of the leading causes of death in the population this serial seeks to engage.
Ajit Jetmalani, M.D., Joseph Professor of psychiatry and head of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Doernbecher Children's Hospital. Other contributors include Kyle P. Johnson, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at Doernbecher; Keith Cheng, M.D., interim medical director of Unity Center for Behavioral Health Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Unit.
Suicide prevention resources
The 24/7 suicide prevention service
Lines for Life (www.linesforlife.org) offers advice to
parents, teachers, youth and the media dealing with suicide,
both in general and as related to this series. Those
personally experiencing suicidal thinking or behavior, or
who are concerned about a loved one, should call the
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or Text
SOS to 741741 immediately. Additional resources include
Youth Line (youth to youth support) at 877-968-8491, or text
Teen2Teen 839863; The Trevor Project (LGBTQ youth),
866-488-7386; and the Veterans Crisis Line,
Netflix should remove '13 Reasons Why' immediately
This show should be pulled off the air immediately, Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, president of the Child Mind Institute, told TODAYs Savannah Guthrie on Friday.
Teenage suicide is contagious. We know for over three decades that when kids watch television where they depict a suicide, theyre more likely to attempt and theyre more likely to actually (kill themselves).
Netflix declined to respond to Koplewicz's remarks. The original series depicts a fictional high school student who leaves behind a trail of tapes revealing 13 reasons including bullying, underage drinking and sexual assault that her character says led her to kill herself.
With 5,000 teenagers predicted take their own lives this year, Koplewicz told TODAY Parents there are 5,000 reasons for Netflix to remove the series. Heres what he wants families to know:
Why should the show be pulled off the air?
Koplewicz: Teenagers are more at risk for committing suicide than children or adults. Ninety percent of teenagers who commit suicide have a psychiatric disorder. That means that they are very vulnerable.
The problem with 13 Reasons Why is that it shows you that when youre in trouble as a teenager, there is no help, youre hopeless and that suicide is glamorous and effective thats not the message we want them to have.
Three decades ago, studies were done after there were four TV programs on the networks about teen suicides. About two weeks after the event, versus the two weeks before the show was seen on TV, there was a definite increase in both attempts and actual completions.
Netflix has been completely unethical and irresponsible in putting this show on the air because it ignores decades-worth of research and public health policy on how we take care of teenagers in general, and how we take care of vulnerable teenagers.
Its only a matter of time when we will start seeing more suicide attempts among teenagers and more completions. The responsible thing to do is to remove the program immediately, not to keep promoting it.
What should parents know about 13 Reasons Why?
Koplewicz: This is a very high-risk television program.
Here we have a show that has very attractive people and a character who committed suicide and is glorified. The message that comes out again and again in the 13 episodes is that when you are a teenager and you feel hopeless, suicide is the solution. Thats a terrible message for all teenagers, but particularly for those who are vulnerable.
I would tell parents that they shouldnt permit their children to watch it. If they have seen some or all of it, then its absolutely imperative that you sit down and have a conversation with your child and explain to them that suicide is not a solution. That if they are facing any bad event or bad feeling, you are there as a parent to help them.
You most probably have to discuss the show with your children whether or not theyre going to watch it because if you dont, someone else is telling them about it.
parents broach the subject of suicide with their kids?
The Speak Up For Kids campaign features celebrities like Emma Stone talking about their personal mental health challenges.
You can say: If someone like that could suffer, get help and do better, that means we should all think about the fact that our brain is also an organ and it can be affected and therefore we need to get help. Theres nothing to be ashamed about, in the same way were not ashamed about having kidney problems or heart problems.
A suicide talk is very different. It would be stimulated by this TV program, a public suicide or if someone you know took their life
You can say: Someone was in so much pain their brain was misguiding them, giving them the wrong messages and, unfortunately, they didnt get the help they needed. If they would have gotten help, they would be alive today. Theres so much help for treating people who have depression or anxiety.
As a parent, I always want you to know that no matter how bad you think things are, Im always here to help you.
If you or someone you know needs help,
please text 741741 or call 911 or call the National Suicide
Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 anytime. For
international resources, including hotlines in every country
and more information, please check out this Crisis
Information page created by Netflix.
to talk with your teen about "13 Reasons Why"
The show is graphic, culminating in fictional teen Hannah Baker's suicide scene in the last episode. It's rated M for mature viewers, but ask any high school student (and most middle school kids, too) and it's likely you'll hear they've watched it or heard all about it through friends and social media.
Some mental health professionals are warning that teens shouldn't view it, especially those struggling with depression or with a history of suicidal thoughts or behaviors, but it may be too late for some parents whose children have already watched on their own.
If your child has seen the show or is curious about it, Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has some advice: "Offer to watch it with them," Moutier told CBS News.
But she says it's not for every teen.
"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.
Kids with a genetic risk factor for depression or a family history of suicide are also vulnerable to the show's messaging and imagery, she said.
The mysterious nature of the series -- the viewer follows teenager Clay Jensen as he listens to each tape, uncovering bit by bit the story behind Hannah's decision to end her life -- may make it tempting to watch all 13 episodes in one fell swoop. But avoid binge-watching it, Moutier recommends.
"Approach it in a tiered way by watching one episode every so often. Binge-watching anything is just going to flood your brain," she said.
A mother of two teenagers, she said her own daughter was interested in seeing "13 Reasons Why."
"My daughter had already read the book before I knew anything about it," she said.
So they are watching it together. Knowing it had graphic sexual assault and suicide scenes, they agreed beforehand that they'd fast-forward through those parts.
"With my own daughter, she and I have already agreed we will figure out where those scenes are and not look at those," said Moutier.
Any teen who's experienced a sexual assault should avoid the show, she advised, saying, "Those scenes will be very triggering."
Parents should shore up their knowledge about suicide prevention before watching "13 Reasons" with their teen or talking about it with a child who has already seen it, so they're prepared to respond and answer questions. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers information online about risks factors, warning signs to watch out for, and where to find resources for support and treatment.
The Jed Foundation created a page specially tailored to the show with talking points that teens, parents, school counselors and mental health professionals can use to help them process the series' content with young viewers.
Heather Freed, the executive director of Erika's Lighthouse, a non-profit resource for depressed teens, told CBS Chicago that 12 school districts in the Chicago area have reached out to the group for help on how to talk with families about the program.
"I think a lot of people are afraid about what to do and doing the wrong thing," Freed told the station. So the group created a resource guide for schools and families to help them navigate the difficult emotions the program might stir up.
The best way to talk with your kids about what they think of the show and the topic of suicide is to listen first in a non-judgey way, Moutier said.
"Learn how to have a caring conversation. Don't do all the talking. Ask open-ended questions like 'What did you think of it?' Don't judge. And do not offer quick solutions or fixes. Listen, support, and if your child is talking about any level of stress, do not hesitate to ask them if they are having suicidal thoughts," Moutier said.
"Don't assume one way or another. If a teen will just start talking about their reactions to it, I think the parent might learn a lot about both what their child took away from the show as well as their own internal thoughts about it," she said.
If your child is having thoughts of suicide, you can reach out to a local chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a national suicide organization or hotline. Most areas also have youth counseling services with experts in suicide prevention. Schools and churches can be a resource, as well.
"13 Reasons Why" has some danger points parents should be aware of, Moutier added. Some teens may take away a disturbing message that suicide is presented as an acceptable solution.
"When the person is glorified and has achieved getting a message out loud and clear after their death, when there is vengeance and blame involved, those all go down a path that detracts from the facts of suicide. To point fingers and blame really misleads the public," said Moutier, referring to the fictional tape recordings the character Hannah left behind, which figure into each of the 13 episodes.
Early in the show, Hannah's locker is decorated with photos and messages from other students memorializing her. At one point, two girls come by the locker, one saying how pretty Hannah was, and they take a selfie of themselves in front of it.
"From a population standpoint, we would be better off not to expose ourselves to messaging like this that is graphic, sensationalized or glorified suicide. It could raise the potential for copycats or clusters of suicides," Moutier said.
Experts on teen suicide advise schools to be cautious about the messaging they send after a child's suicide, including the monitoring of memorials and allowing kids to grieve and debrief before launching into suicide prevention activities.
The way adults are represented in "13 Reasons Why" ranges from generally clueless to unhelpful to out-and-out harmful, including the school counselor and parents. But Moutier said it's not true to real life when most kids who are suicidal reach out for help.
"There's been research that shows clearly that suicide risk goes down in youth when there is a strong belief that there are adults in their community who are supportive and trustworthy," she explained.
When it comes to the series' graphic finale, Moutier sees the potential for serious harm. "No matter how much you try to defend a graphic portrayal of suicide to raise awareness, there is no way it will change the very real and dangerous suicide risk among the population that is vulnerable. It's very tempting to use that kind of graphic portrayal, thinking you won't be able to drive your point home if you don't, but it's a harmful message."
Some teens may be desensitized to that type of disturbing or violent imagery, while others will be much more deeply affected.
"If you have any say in it, I would not expose a vulnerable child or adult to it -- period," said Moutier.
Kids struggling with suicidal thoughts need to hear that suicide is not a solution to life's challenges, Moutier said.
"There are solutions but they might be hard for that person to access. Others can help them get through it and help them access those," she said.
Actress and singer Selena Gomez -- a former Disney Channel star who has spoken out about her own struggles with anxiety and depression -- served as an executive producer for the Netflix series, which is based on Jay Asher's young adult novel. She and the actors from the show talk about suicide in a follow-up video, "13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons," for teenagers who are battling depression.
The bottom line, said Moutier: "Don't be afraid to have a conversation with your children."
For help, call the 24/7 National
Suicide Prevention Phone Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the
naional 24/7 crisis txt line aqt 741741.
The talk that
could save a life: How to talk about suicide to kids of any
Kids can handle this bad news. It will be hard for you to discuss it. They will have questions, but they will be able to hear this and understand at their developmental level. Even more, it's crucial that kids understand mental illness so that they can take good care of themselves throughout their own lives. So first, the three great reasons to tell them the truth of what's going on:
1. Kids deserve the truth. Hiding and lying about the facts will almost always come back to bite you, and will get in the way of good communication in your relationship.
What to say:
As with any tough topic you address with your child, share the facts you're comfortable sharing, and then pick the one message you want your child to remember from the conversation. For suicide, the most basic fact is:
"(The person who died) suffered from an illness called depression for many years, and died of it."
For the one message that sticks, see below for some developmentally appropriate "take home points."
Toddlers and preschoolers:
"Uncle Bill was sick and he died. I'm very sad."
"Uncle Bill was sick from an illness called depression. He died from it, and I'm going to miss him very much."
"Uncle Bill had an illness called depression for many years. He died from his depression. I wish he'd been able to get more help."
For this age group you may be willing or need, if they will hear from others to address how he died. If you do, you can simply say "Depression lies to a person and makes them believe that the whole world would be better off if they were dead. So he killed himself."
"Uncle Bill suffered from depression for years. Do you know anything about depression?"
Asking a question and listening to the answer will let you know what your child already believes about the topic. You may be surprised what they've heard, and be able to have a deeper conversation. You might also need to correct some misconceptions. But if they don't mention suicide, you have to.
"People with very bad depression sometimes try to kill themselves. It's because this disease makes them feel worthless and awful and also makes them believe they will never feel any better. They start to believe the world will be better off without them. If they don't get the right kind of help, sometimes they die by suicide. That's what happened with my brother."
"Uncle Bill died of suicide. What do you know about depression?"
Teens value the respect of being told what's happening like an adult. Asking what they already know guarantees that you will start a conversation at their level, rather than assuming they know what they don't or frustrating your child with information they already have. Be sure in this first conversation or a follow up to turn the topic to your teen.
"Do you ever feel that kind of sadness or hopelessness? What would you do if you did?"
Many adults are afraid to discuss suicide with teens, fearing it will give them the idea to try it. This fear has been studied and research shows that more discussion is better, not worse. Telling our older kids straight out that we worry about them, that we'd be devastated if they died of suicide, does help!
Depression affects many children and adults. More conversation helps! When faced with this kind of tragedy in your own family, a friend or just an acquaintance, the only good that can come out of it is keeping someone else safe. So talk, ask, and get help for anyone who needs it.
If you or someone you know needs help, text the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911.
Dr. Debi Gilboa is a Pittsburgh-area
family physician, mother of four boys and author of multiple
books including "Get the Behavior You Want, Without Being
the Parent You Hate!".
eulogy for teen Maya Gold to urge action and erase stigma of
If there was ever anyone I wanted to see grow up, it was Maya Gold part of the solution, the New York rabbi told a group of 800 mourners less than two months later at the girls funeral.
After Maya committed suicide on Oct. 2, her parents encouraged Kligler to share his eulogy for their daughter, hoping it would help others open up about the taboo topic.
The stigma and shame attached to suicide means that we do not usually share with others about the suicides we have been close to, or about our own attempts, Kligler told mourners two days after Mayas death. If we dont break the silence about suicide, if we dont talk with one another about it, then well never be able to help prevent it.
Kligler, senior scholar at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation, told TODAY.com that through his work he has learned far more people have been touched by a suicide than many realize. He also speaks about the topic from personal experience: His pediatrician father committed suicide when Kligler, now 59, was 24.
I knew I had to take that opportunity to bring suicide into the light of day and make it a part of ordinary conversation, he said.
Kligler first met Maya after she attended her friends bat mitzvah at his synagogue. Although she grew up Jewish, she was not religious. Yet, her friends ceremony inspired Maya to start learning about her faith. She started training to have her own bat mitzvah, which was held last November.
Maya was definitely a spiritual seeker by nature, said Kligler, who also described her as someone extraordinarily bright and on fire.
The news about Maya's death left everyone around her stunned. While her parents were aware of her depression, neither they, nor Maya's therapist, had any indication the teen was suicidal.
No one was negligent, so sadly, this one did not get on the radar, Kligler said.
That's why he also focused his eulogy on the need for friends to look out for each other. He said today's society is driven by social media platforms that allow teenagers to know more about each other than their own parents.
"Look after each other. That is the bottom line," he said. "In a country where the ethos of individualism makes America great, it also gives you the illusion that you dont need other people, and that has to be punctured."
In his eulogy, Kligler noted that Mayas parents found various over-the-counter drugs in her room after her death. Among the medications they found cough suppressants, antihistamines and synthetic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
In recent weeks Maya had been depressed, and it appears recently turned to some drugs that made her feel better, Kligler told mourners.
You teens have to be more mature than ever in looking out for each other around drugs and alcohol, he said. "When you see a friend losing their balance and teetering at the edge of the darkness of drug and alcohol abuse, you must be brave and act. Reach out your hand and tell us what is going on, so that we can help. It will probably be messy. You might make a fool of yourself, you might lose some friends, but you could literally save someones life the next time. Is anything more important?
Elise Gold and Mathew Swerdloff, Mayas parents, in a statement they provided to a local paper, said our collective hearts shattered into enough pieces to fill the ocean when their daughter took her life.
Maya made a mistake. A mistake from which there is no retreat, no undoing, no return to a time before what has been done. That is where we begin to make sense of this, they said, before explaining why they asked Kligler to share his powerful eulogy.
"It speaks to a way forward, a way to
honor Mayas life by cherishing our own lives and
families, by listening and connecting with each other and by
supporting each other," they said. "Please read it, share it
and find your way in the web of receiving and offering
Behind Suicide Contagion
Mental illness is not a communicable disease, but theres a strong body of evidence that suicide is still contagious. Publicity surrounding a suicide has been repeatedly and definitively linked to a subsequent increase in suicide, especially among young people. Analysis suggests that at least 5 percent of youth suicides are influenced by contagion.
People who kill themselves are already vulnerable, but publicity around another suicide appears to make a difference as they are considering their options. The evidence suggests that suicide outbreaks and clusters are real phenomena; one death can set off others. Theres a particularly strong effect from celebrity suicides.
Suicide contagion is real, which is why Im concerned about it, said Madelyn Gould, a professor of Epidemiology in Psychiatry at Columbia University, who has studied suicide contagion extensively.
Suicide prevention advocates have developed guidelines for news media coverage of suicide deaths. The idea is to avoid emphasizing or glamorizing suicide, or to make it seem like a simple or inevitable solution for people who are at risk. The guidelines have been shown to make a difference: A study in Vienna documented a significant drop in suicide risk when reporters began adhering to recommendations for coverage.
That aim has to be weighed against a journalistic duty to keep the public informed. And in the Internet era, a person who wants to know details of a suicide wont have a hard time finding them. Most of the research on suicide contagion predates the rise of social media.
Few of the experts recommendations make much sense in the case of Mr. Williams. Studies suggest avoiding repetitive or prominent coverage; keeping the word suicide out of news headlines; and remaining silent about the means of suicide. How can it not be prominent? Ms. Gould said.
Experts also say articles should include information about how suicide can be avoided (for instance, noting that the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255).
They also recommend avoiding coverage that describes death as an escape for a troubled person. One example was the 1994 death of Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, who was beloved among young music fans, including in Seattle, where his career rose and where he was found dead. Local coverage of his suicide was closely tied to messages about treatment for mental health and suicide prevention, along with a very public discussion of the pain his death caused his family. Those factors may explain why his death bucked the pattern. In the months after Mr. Cobains death, calls to suicide prevention lines in the Seattle area surged and suicides actually went down.
Its different from any
other cause of death, said Christine Moutier, the
chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide
Prevention. When someone dies of cancer or heart
disease or AIDS, you dont have to worry about
messaging it wrong.
school students hope to combat suicide, depression with '13
Reasons Why Not' project
On a recent Monday morning at Oxford High School in Michigan, students gathered in their classrooms, settling in for the weekday grind. But instead of morning announcements, they heard a powerful message from their classmate.
Hey, its Riley, Riley Juntti. Don't adjust your whatever device your listening on. It's me, live and in stereo. No return engagements, no encore and this time, absolutely no requests, the 18-year-old senior said in a recording obtained by TODAY from students at Oxford High School.
Anyone whos seen the divisive Netflix series 13 Reasons Why will recognize the monologue. Its the same one recited by Hannah Baker, a fictional high school student who outlines the reasons behind her suicide on a series of cassette tapes left for her peers.
But when it came time for Juntti to blame someone for contributing to her despair, like Baker did, she called out a student for a different reason.
You saw me when no one else did and continue to listen, share and appreciate the small things with me. Thank you for your kindness I cannot repay. You are one of my 13 reasons why not.
Abusive relationships, cruel teammates and bullying are just some of the personal experiences juniors and seniors at Oxford High School have broadcast each morning since May 1 for their 13 Reasons Why Not project.
The project was originally conceptualized by dean of students Pamela Fine, but now the students have taken charge. They are using their new platform to encourage peer-to-peer conversation around uncomfortable topics like mental health and suicide.
There is never one reason why, there are not 13 reasons, there are not one million reasons why. So we started focusing on the why nots, Fine told TODAY. Hannah Baker had a million why nots,' but we didn't talk about those. The show just took the viewer down a path of suicide is inevitable, but it is not inevitable.
13 Reasons Why has struck a nerve with parents, experts and school faculty nationwide since its premiere in March. It is overwhelmingly popular among teens, in part because it doesnt shy away from the ugly parts of the high school experience.
But some worry the series presents an unrealistic image of suicide one that could be attractive to vulnerable teens particularly at risk for impulsive behavior.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 10 to 24-year-olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A 2015 study conducted by the CDC found that 17 percent of students seriously considered suicide, and 8 percent had actually attempted it.
Students at Oxford High, which is in Detroit's northern suburbs, identify with Bakers experiences. But those in charge of the project feel the show did little to demonstrate options for teens struggling with mental health issues and thoughts of suicide.
Some of our students are going through very traumatic situations. Even though we go through those awful times, there is always hope and there are people who can help you get through that, Juntti told TODAY.
So far, response to the project has been overwhelmingly positive. Within days of the first broadcast, numerous students have opened up to counselors and peers, and even volunteered to share their own stories.
This progress is particularly important for the Oxford community, which lost a student to suicide four years ago.
In 2013, freshman Megan Abbott, 15, died just outside school grounds mere weeks before the end of the school year. 13 Reasons Why Not has been dedicated to her memory.
Abbotts mother, Amy Hafeli, has applauded the schools efforts. She believes her daughter, who struggled with depression, would have benefited immensely from the initiative.
"One of the things she always wished for is exactly what this 13 Reasons Why Not Project is doing, for people to be nicer to each other," Hafeli said. "She is getting her wish through this project, and we couldn't be more grateful for it."
As for the students and faculty, their goal for the project is simple: save lives.
Our goal going in would be to start conversations with our kids to prevent suicide, to build relationships, to empower our students and also to reframe the negative message they are getting, Fine said. "There is no reason why.
Oxford High School students will
continue broadcasting 13 Reasons Why Not until
May 18. After that, Hafeli hopes Abbotts memorial
Facebook page will serve as a forum for open communication
about mental health struggles.
Reasons Why star, creator on the importance of a woman
directing Hannah's sexual assault
We felt really strongly that we wanted to have a woman direct the episode, for a few reasons, showrunner Brian Yorkey says. We wanted Katherine [Langford] to be very comfortable with what it was she had to do and we felt it would be helpful for another woman to be guiding her through it. We also wanted a woman because a great deal of the show is Hannah being seen through the male gaze. It was very important to us for Hannah to be led by a woman [for this episode].
Langford remembers feeling supported during the entire filming experience. It was a real privilege working with Jessica Yu, particularly on that episode, because she brought such a smart and such a thoughtful approach to it, Langford says. I think, as a woman, she was able to talk to me in a way maybe that I could understand on a deeper or more personal level. I felt so looked after.
Furthermore, Langford applauds Yu for
her approach to the challenging material. I remember
her talking about how we were going to shoot it and how
different angles could make it look sexual, which is another
problem: So much porn is based on rape fantasy. And so for
her, shooting it was about not making it look like sex but
more a physical action, Langford says.
Schools across the nation are banning the book "13 Reasons Why." Netflix has a series on the book that is taking over televisions.
The Medford School District also issued a statement about the show that some say glorifies suicide. It also said health professionals, counselors and suicide prevention experts are very concerned about the content of the show.
The National Association of School Psychologists said they do not recommend vulnerable youth watching the series. A number of organizations, including the Medford School District said this is an opportunity to create a dialogue with your children about the show.
Although it is a popular series, not all teens have seen the series.
"I'm not sure if my mom would feel like it was the best TV show for me to watch," Logos Public Charter School student Zoe Vondoloski said. "She might not approve."
The family advocate at Logos Public Charter School, Frank Matz, said it is important to have a conversation with your children about it. Matz said he has lost a lot of family and friends to suicide, and so it was important to him to speak with his teenagers about it also. He said the series romanticized suicide, giving teens a romantic idea that this is something that is doable.
He said if you're worried about a TV
show, your children are doing a whole lot more than
News10 spoke with schools in the region about how they are responding to the show, but now, we wanted to know how victims of suicide loss are reacting to this show.
News10 spoke with Susan Holt; her daughter, Grace, died by suicide in January of 2016. She said the show is inappropriate and is sending the wrong message.
Holt said Grace did not exhibit any red flags--she always had a smile on her face. That is one of the reasons why Holt said the show upsets her. She said suicide does not look like "13 Reasons Why."
Holt also said the show barely touched on depression, and that should have been the focus, as well as helping lead people in a direction that gives them options.
"And the thing that bothers me the most is when someone dies from suicide, they're dead," Holt said. "There is no story that goes on, there aren't 13 tapes to go back and look at. There is no other series--series 2, and it's just so wrong."
Holt said if anything, she thinks it's going to increase the rate of suicides.
Holt recommends parents to not allow
their children to see it. Above all, she said it is
sensationalizing and glamorizing something that should never
be put into that light.
Reasons Why Renewed for a Secdon Season
But that doesnt mean it was
earned. In fact, if you ask most critics, theyd tell
you it wasnt. Netflixs renewal of 13 Reasons Why
is part of a growing industry trend of fans clamoring for
more episodes of their favorite shows, and networks more
often than not indulging that impulse.