If you’re a parent or carer for young people and you’re aware that the young person in your care has watched, or is watching, the Netflix drama 13 Reasons Why, we would recommend that you have a conversation about it. You could ask what they thought of the programme and how they feel about the content.
While it’s not always possible, if you can watch it with them or watch it in your own time so you can discuss the characters, this may be helpful. Do bear in mind the programme may bring up difficult feelings for you too, talk to someone if this is the case.
Drama can be a helpful way of bringing difficult issues, including suicide, to a wide range of audiences. It can help to raise awareness, start important conversations and encourage people to seek help if they identify with the topics raised.
We know that Young people in particular want to see real life issues covered in drama aimed at their age group. This provides an opportunity but also a challenge for programme makers because research shows that when covering suicide and self-harm, it’s important to do this sensitively and responsibly.
Seasons one and two of 13 Reasons Why cover a number of difficult issues in great depth, including bullying, drug misuse, sexual assault, self-harm and suicide. While we want people to feel they can talk openly about these topics, we know it’s not always easy, and covering all of these issues in one drama could make this difficult viewing for some.
For this reason, we believe 13 Reasons Why is not necessarily suitable for everyone.
For anyone who has experienced any of the difficulties mentioned, especially if they have experienced suicidal feelings or have been bereaved by suicide, or have experience of self-harm - watching 13 Reasons Why could trigger difficult memories and feelings.
One of the advantages with on-demand viewing services, such as Netflix, is that you can pause and take a break and have a discussion if something has come up for your child.
One of the key things when talking to a young person who has watched 13 Reasons Why and feels affected by what they have seen, is listening. Give them the time to express how they feel affected. Provide them with the opportunity to share what they want to and help them think about whether they need any help or support. Be careful that they don’t misinterpret anything you say as being judgemental and avoid inadvertently closing the conversation down.
People should also be encouraged to speak out if they’re worried about a friend who may have been affected by the show. Talking and offering help won’t make the person feel worse, it’s okay to ask if they’re okay. It may be a relief for them to know that someone has spotted they may be having a difficult time and that someone is there to support them.
Some people find it easier to talk to someone outside their family, someone who is not directly connected with their life, or even to talk to someone anonymously. If this is their preference, this should be encouraged. Anyone can call Samaritans’ helpline, for free, any time of the day or night on 116123, or email us at: [email protected] There are also many helpful sources of advice and support listed on our website: https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/other-sources-help
Netflix has also produced resources for viewers and a short film where the actors talk about the issues raised and encouraging people to seek help if they have been affected by watching the series.
All of the episodes of 13 Reasons Why are rated 18 and carry trigger warnings at the beginning. Viewers are also signposted to sources of support at the end of each episode.
If you believe a person is at imminent risk of harming themselves, call 999 for emergency help.