School warns parents about Netflix series that 'romanticizes' suicide
KINGSTON — Counselors at Sanborn Regional High School have issued a warning to parents about a controversial Netflix TV series called “13 Reasons Why,” saying they fear it could romanticize suicide and send a dangerous message to teenagers.
The school’s counseling team sent a memo this week expressing concerns about the 13-episode series that revolves around a high student who commits suicide. The counselors offered talking points and resources available to help people address mental health issues.
“13 Reasons Why” was released on March 31 and is based on the 2007 young adult novel of the same name by author Jay Asher; it became a New York Times bestseller.
“Our goal as a counseling team is (to) increase awareness of resources available in our community for mental health support,” said Michelle Catena, the high school’s director of school counseling.
In the memo, the school explained how the series focuses on a group of high school students as they follow the story left behind for them by a classmate who killed herself.
“After a teenage girl’s perplexing suicide, a classmate receives a series of tapes that unravel the mystery of her tragic choice,” Netflix says in its description of the series.
But counselors argue that the trailer and advertisements for the series can be misleading.
“In watching the series, young people and teenagers could perceive the message that suicide is a viable and/or romanticized option. The content of the series is extremely graphic with troubling scenes throughout each episode, which may be difficult for the teenage mind to watch and process in an appropriate way,” the memo said.
The counselors said the series doesn’t “express what to do in harmful situations in terms of getting help or utilizing healthy coping skills.” The memo said that the show’s message “does not comply with the health and recommendations for treating mental health, and/or trauma, or preventing suicide.”
Parents were urged to find out if their child has read the book, watched the show, or heard about it, and to talk to them.
The message emailed from the high school can be viewed below:
Sanborn Regional Principal Brian Stack said the school counseling team is always looking for opportunities to educate parents, students and families, and to provide them with a comprehensive set of resources on issues that affect the youth in the community.
The memo includes contact information for local mental health providers and a national suicide hotline,
“With the recent spike in popularity with this series, combined with the rise in mental health issues in our communities of Fremont, Kingston and Newton, the timing was perfect for our team to provide information and resources for Sanborn families,” he said.
The message has been well-received, Stack said.
“I have received a number of positive messages, as well as requests from other schools in New Hampshire and states beyond to share this message with their school communities,” he said.