Tips for talking about the Netflix drama, "13 Reasons Why" | Mental Health First Aid

Tips for talking about the Netflix drama, "13 Reasons Why"

On Friday, May 18th 2018, Netflix will release season 2 of the television show ‘13 Reasons Why’. Although we are not sure what will be included in the second season, we do know that season 1 included many themes that were distressing to many viewers, particularly for those who have mental health problems, or have experienced thoughts of suicide.

Mental health professionals from all around the world were concerned about season 1, with particular concern for:

  • How suicide was presented as a way to seek revenge
  • The way that Hannah remained present through the show, including after her death
  • The way the adult characters in the show, especially the school counsellor, were portrayed as unhelpful, or not concerned about Hannah’s wellbeing.

Many people argued that the show was harmful, and recommended that a second season should not be created without extensive consultation with mental health professionals. However, the show has still progressed to a second season. If you are a parent or teacher, it’s a good idea to talk to the young people around you about the show before they decide whether or not to watch it.

Some of the following talking points might be helpful:

  • It’s important to realize that you don’t have to watch the show, even if your friends are. Anyone who is concerned that they might be distressed by the content should give serious thought to choosing not to watch, or consider safe ways to watch.
  • Just because all of the episodes will be released at once doesn’t mean you have to watch them all at once. Watching one episode at a time, with a day or even a week between episodes, may make it easier to manage your feelings.
  • It’s much better to watch the show with other people. Watch the show with a parent or a friend. Being able to discuss each episode afterwards can make it easier to manage your feelings and be critical of what you have seen. Watching it alone in your room can make it really hard to process what you’re watching, and can lead to feelings of depression.
  • This show is made for entertainment and profit. Even if some things seem and look realistic, it doesn’t mean that it was designed as an educational show. Remember that when people are making television shows, they’re aiming to shock and entertain their viewers. If mental health professionals say that a particular plot point is a bad idea and the network goes ahead and does it anyway, it’s because the network values the plot more than any chance to teach an important lesson. Don’t use this show as a way to learn about suicide or mental health. Instead, look at reputable websites like beyondblue and ReachOut.
  • Most importantly – if you or someone you care about is experiencing a mental health problem, or having thoughts of suicide, there is help available. Talk to a family member or an adult at school, call Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) or talk to a health professional. Headspace have also developed some materials around the same subject. You can view those here.

Mental Health First Aid training teaches people the skills to support someone who is developing, or experiencing a worsening of an existing, mental health problem to find appropriate professional help. This includes how to have open conversations with friends, family members and colleagues about mental health problems, including about thoughts of suicide.

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