The first season of “13 Reasons Why” sent shock waves of concern through schools, which experienced an uptick in students seeking counseling services after binge-watching the popular series. School counselors are preparing in advance for the release of the second season, expected anytime on Netflix. Tori Gillett, Comprehensive Counseling and Guidance Program Coordinator with Canyons School District, joined Emily Clark, to talk about what you should know before letting your kids watch the show.
The first season did contain graphic scenes about the difficult issues of suicide. Last year, Gillett says they were caught by surprise when kids started coming into counseling centers, asking for help after watching the show. This time around, although national school counseling groups haven’t been able to screen the show in advance of its release, they’re trying to get ahead of it. They’re doing it by starting the conversation about the ways parents can work with schools to prepare kids, who will undoubtedly want to watch it.
The school district says they don’t disagree with Netflix’s stated goal of trying to help start conversations about these very real issues. But they do think kids need guidance when taking in this kind of content. Without appropriate safeguards, such as warning cards before each episode, it had the potential to put some vulnerable at risk for emotional distress or harmful behavior, including increased suicide ideation and attempts.
Of course, parents can decide what’s best for their own families, says Gillett. But, if kids are asking their parents for permission to watch, they do encourage parents to watch with their children. Youth who see this series may need supportive adults to help process it. However, they do caution against binge-watching, as doing so with intense content, particularly in isolation, can be associated with increased mental-health concerns.
School counseling centers can help both students and parents who are looking for information about this or any other issue that is prompting difficult emotions. Of course, if a student needs help immediately, they can turn to the SafeUT mobile app for all-day and all-night access to licensed clinicians from the University of Utah.
TIPS FOR STUDENTS
- Hotlines – 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text “START” to 741741.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to your friends about how they feel and let them know you care about them.
- Be an “upstander” and take actions to reduce bullying and increase positive connections among others. Report concerns.
- Never promise to keep secret behaviors that represent a danger toward another person.
- Always take warning signs seriously and know the warning signs.