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Controversial “13 Reasons Why” second season starts tonightPosted by Paula Robinson on 5/18/2018 2:30:00 PM
Dear Riverdale Parents and Teachers,
In anticipation of tonight’s return of the controversial Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” we want to provide some resources that may be valuable to you and your student when discussing the issues presented in the series. Topics such as bullying, sexual assault, violence, grief and teen suicide.
When the first season premiered last year, schools across the country grappled with how to address parents' concerns about the series and how to help students process the show and its themes. Many adults – including mental health practitioners – worry that teens with mental health issues may conclude that suicide is the only solution to their struggles. In addition, many tweens and young teens watch the series, causing great concern among parents and experts who feel the show's themes are too mature for younger kids.
Watch with your teen, and discuss
We encourage you to be with your teen, if possible, when they watch each episode for the first time. Consider watching only one episode at a time – binge watching is not recommended. Allow time to talk about each episode. Here are some sample conversation starters you can present before or after watching each episode of the show:
- What do you think about what happened in this episode?
- Do you think the characters in the show are behaving in ways that are similar to people you know? How so? How are they different?
- Did parts of the story make you think about how people who are struggling do not show the full picture of what they are dealing with to others?
- What did you learn about “so-and-so character’s” situation from this episode? For example, what did you learn about what happened to Jessica and sexual assault?
- How does what you have seen change how you view some things that happen in real life?
- Do you think the adults did anything wrong? What could they have done better?
Students’ personal struggles often come to light when triggered by a tragic event, uncomfortable experience or viewing/hearing a form of media (television show, film, music, etc.) that touches on sensitive topics. It’s important for peers, families and school staff to be on the lookout for warning signs that indicate a student needs support:
- Changes in school performance (e.g. grades, attendance)
- Changes in mood
- Increased disciplinary problems at school
- Complaints of illness
- Problems experienced at home or family situations (stress, trauma, divorce, substance abuse, domestic violence)
- Communication from teachers about problems at school
- Difficulty dealing with existing mental health concerns
Cast members have recorded a video warning some viewers that they may not want to watch the series if they are struggling with similar issues, or to watch the series with a trusted adult. The video also urges viewers to “reach out for help” and “talk to someone” if they need assistance. Netflix has indicated that it will provide warning cards before each episode, a discussion guide designed to facilitate conversations and outlets for assistance for viewers, and other safeguards.
Importantly, there are indications that young people are watching or re-watching the first season in order to “be up to speed” for the second season. Netflix has created a discussion guide and added some additional warning cards; however, we strongly recommend that vulnerable children and youth (such as those struggling with depression, previous suicidal behavior or trauma) not watch the series, and most certainly not alone. Schools and parents can refer to the National Association of School Psychologists’ season 1 guidance for additional recommendations.
We’re here to help
We, along with our school counselors, are here to assist you and your student. In the series, the main character is dismissed when she seeks help for her feelings. This is not the case in our schools. We appreciate every one of our students and go to great lengths to support their mental and physical well being.
Paula Robinson, Riverdale High School Principal
Joanna Tobin, Riverdale Grade School Principal
- 5 Things Parents Need to Know About 13 Reasons Why (Season 2) (Common Sense Media, video)
- 5 Conversations to Have with Your Teens After 13 Reasons Why (Common Sense Media)
- 13 Reasons Why Resources (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)
- 13 Reasons Why Toolkit (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education)
- Common Sense Media review of 13 Reasons Why
- 13 Reasons Why Talking Points
- Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide
- Oregon YouthLine: If you or your teen needs support, there is help and hope. YouthLine offers support for whatever you are going through. Teens are available to help daily from 4-10 p.m. PST (adults are available by phone at all other times):
- Text “teen2teen” to 839863
- Call 877-968-8491
- Chat: oregonyouthline.org
- Email: YouthL@linesforlife.org
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: Suicide is never a solution. It is an irreversible choice regarding a temporary problem. There is help. If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or know someone who is, talk to a trusted adult, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text “START” to 741741.