Dear Parents and Families,
Schools play a crucial part in developing a partnership with the community to help prevent youth suicide, and being aware of potential risk factors in students’ lives is vital to this responsibility. The trending Netflix series "13 Reasons Why," based on a young adult novel of the same name, is raising such concerns.
The series revolves around 17-year old Hannah Baker, who takes her own life and leaves behind audio recordings for 13 people who she says were part of why she killed herself. Each tape recounts painful events in which one or more of the 13 individuals played a role. Producers for the show say they hope the series can help those who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide.
However, the series, which many teenagers are binge-watching without adult guidance and support, is raising concerns from suicide prevention experts about the potential risks posed by the sensationalized treatment of youth suicide. The series graphically depicts a suicide death and addresses a number of topics such as bullying, rape, suicide ideation, rape culture, identity and image, sex, underage drinking, drug use, stalking, cyberbullying, and mental illness. The series also highlights the consequences of teenagers witnessing assaults and bullying and not taking action to address the situation (i.e., not telling an adult about the incident).
We do not recommend youth, especially those who have any degree of suicidal ideation, watch this series. Its powerful storytelling may lead impressionable viewers to romanticize the choices made by the characters and/or develop revenge fantasies. They may also easily identify with the experiences portrayed and recognize both the intentional and unintentional effects on the central character. Unfortunately, adult characters in the show, including a school counselor who inadequately addresses Hannah’s pleas for help, do not inspire a sense of trust or ability to help. Hannah’s parents are also unaware of the events that led to her suicide death.
While many youth are resilient and capable of differentiating between a TV drama and real life, engaging in thoughtful conversations with them about the show is vital. Doing so presents an opportunity to help them process the issues addressed, consider the consequences of certain choices, and reinforce the message that suicide is not a solution and that help is available. Research shows exposure to another person’s suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of death, can be one of many risk factors that youth with mental health conditions cite as a reason they contemplate or attempt suicide.
The following recommendations from the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), the JED Foundation, and the National Association of School Psychologists can be a guide for you in talking with your children and offer resources you might find helpful:
1. Ask your child/children if they have heard or seen the series 13 Reasons Why. While we don’t recommend they be encouraged to view the series, do tell them you want to watch it with them if they show an interest in viewing it and then allow them to share their thoughts with you as you view it together.
2. If they exhibit any warning signs of suicide (https://afsp.org/about-suicide/risk-factors-and-warning-signs/), don’t be afraid to ask if they have thought about suicide. Raising the issue of suicide does not increase the risk or plant the idea. On the contrary, it creates the opportunity to offer help.
3. Talk to them about how to seek help, and guide them on how to respond when they see or hear any of the warning signs in others.
4. Listen to your children’s comments without judgment. Doing so requires that you fully concentrate, understand, respond, and then remember what is being said. Put your own agenda aside.
5. Get help from a school-employee or community-based mental health professional if you are concerned for your child’s safety or the safety of one of their peers.
Here in the Dublin Unified School District we offer many resources to support for our students. Here is how to access those resources:
· Contact your school’s administrator. They can connect you with in school resources right away.
· Go to the Dublin Unified School District's comprehensive Bullying Prevention web page for support, (includes an anonymous tip line, which immediately goes to all your school site’s administrators):
· See Parent Links on the front page of our website for Tri-Valley Human Services Resources.
· Seek counseling support at any of our K-12 schools. The list of our counselors are the following:
Melissa Urizar, ext. 6773
Cottonwood Creek, 925-833-3333
Jennifer Montague, ext. 6989
Cynthia Pizano, ext. 5814
Dublin Elementary, 925-833-1204
Christan Daniels, ext. 5085
Erin Johnson, ext. 5282
Cynthia Pizano, 6661
Kathy Ng, ext. 6820
Christan Daniels, ext. 5470
Christie Yates, ext. 6154
Tia Baker, ext. 6154
Leor Levin, ext. 6332
Jennifer Lidster, ext. 6340
Liz Buckley, ext. 6311
Dublin High School, 925-833-3300 and Valley High School, 925-828-4322
Dublin High School Counselors Valley High School
Gloria DaSilva, ext. 7004 Mario Hurado, ext. 7901
Cynthia Walker, ext. 7055
Eric Callaway, ext. 7021
Warren Parker, ext. 7028
Caroline Rubio, ext. 7022
Kim Halket, ext. 7278
Diane Heise, ext. 7175
Other Valuable Resources For Help:
· Valuable information can be found at the following websites:
· CDE Suicide Prevention Web page: Youth Suicide Prevention
· CDE Project Ca-Well Youth Mental Health First Aid Training Web page: Project Cal-Well