Controversial Netflix Series is Sparking a Conversation about Teen Suicide

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A controversial Netflix series is causing school districts across the country to warn parents about the risks of teen suicide.

The series ’13 Reasons Why’ is narrated by teenager Hannah Baker, a troubled high school student who has recorded a series of audio tapes, describing the 13 reasons why she has taken her own life. The show is based on a best-selling novel and debuted on Netflix in March. The program’s unflinching look at teen suicide is causing concern among school districts nationwide. They’re sending letters to parents to warn them the show may be perceived as glorifying and romanticizing suicide.

Dr. Christina Connoly, who works for a school district in Maryland, helped write a letter, saying “…adolescents watching without an adult…could be at increased risk of self-harm.” “Watching a suicide or knowing someone who has died by suicide can lead others to completing a suicide themselves.

Netflix responded in a statement, saying …we gave the series a TV-MA rating, (and) added explicit warnings on the three most graphic episodes….  we hope that 13 Reasons Why can serve as a catalyst for conversation.”

Radio host Toby Knapp received a warning letter from his 13 year old daughter’s school, but only after she had already binge-watched the show alone. “It’s caused her mom and I to say, okay what is our daughter watching, what is she spending her screen time on?,” Knapp says.

The series is designed to have an intense impact on viewers, according to Executive Producer Selena Gomez, who herself struggled with depression. “They have to see something that’s going to shake them,” Gomez says. “This show is as real as it can possibly get.”

A real show leading to real family dialogue.

“I’m glad we’re having a lot of tough conversations,” Toby Knapp says, “but I wish I had been tuned into those conversations sooner.

However these conversations between parents and their children get started, they are important. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, among American teens aged 15 to 19, suicide is the second-leading cause of death.

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