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13 Reasons Why

Update from last week: I watched the final episode of 13 Reasons Why two nights ago. During my binge watching of the show, comments from my daughter included “Tell me where you are in the show, Mom”, “Can you believe what happened to (insert name of character highlighted in that episode)?”, “I’m not watching that show anymore because I know everything since my friends at school told me about it”, and “I’m never telling you about anything I watch again because I don’t want you to watch it, Mom!” All of the remarks above led into deeper conversations about the topics covered in the show — bullying, suicide, friendship, drugs, alcohol, high school life, rape, etc..

One particular day when she was lamenting the fact that mom was watching this teen drama, I asked her, “Do you know why I’m taking time to watch this show?”

“No,” responded my soon-to-be ninth grader.

“Because it’s tough stuff. And I don’t want you to have to navigate it out on your own,” I stated matter-of-factly. My daughter didn’t say anything then. But when I let her know the other day that I was about to watch episode thirteen she told me how upset I was going to be … and last night she told me about a girl at school who gets picked on by everyone else. “I’m nice to her though, Mama. And I tell other people to leave her alone. She’s my friend, I guess.”

That’s why I watched the show. For her. I want to be a safe place for my girl to process what is going on in her world — always.

One question I asked myself time and again as the story of Hannah Baker and her classmates unfolded on the screen was “Where are the parents?” The young characters on the show were left to wrestle through traumatic events mostly without any adult guidance.

Articles last week from the New York Times, Business Insiderand smaller presses stress the controversy over 13 Reasons Why. Some mental health experts, educators and parents say that it glamorizes suicide. All urge parents to watch the show with their kids, especially kids who may be struggling with depression.

Regardless of our opinions about the show, it is a phenomenon, with over 3.5 million social impressions in the first week. It can be a tool to turn the hearts of parents and children toward one another. So what are we going to do about it?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Make time to listen to your kids. I know it can be hard to find the time with all we juggle as parents, but our kids are our priority! Even take time to play!
  • Take any comments about bullying at school seriously. Empower your kids to stand up for themselves and their peers. Talk with school personnel about school climate and safety plans.
  • Educate yourself about the signs of depression. Remember depression is anger turned inward. Talk with your kids about healthy ways to deal with their anger, such as talking with you, deep breathing, journaling, exercising, painting, etc. Assure your kids that it is okay to feel what they feel.
  • Find a counselor or other mental health professional. There is no shame in needing help for your kids or for yourself.
  • If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text Crisis Text Line at 741-741.