Peel school board warning parents about Netflix series

Season two of 13 Reasons Why, on Netflix, is scheduled to be released on May 18. In series one, the story depicts a high school student, who dies by suicide, leaving behind 13 cassette recordings that share the events she perceives led to her death. Season two will explore a number of storylines that could lead to a larger conversation about subjects including sexual assault, gun violence and more, which may be emotionally triggering for vulnerable students.

Although this series has been promoted by the creators as a tool to help students recognize their impact on others to prevent suicide, it does not address mental illness or present viable alternatives to suicide, including seeking support from mental health professionals. At no point do the actors seek help from family members, friends or other trusted adults.

Series like this can lead to misconceptions and misinformation about suicide and, possibly, to the glorification of suicide and suicide contagion. For those reasons, mental health professionals across North America, including the Peel District School Board mental health team, feel it is necessary to make you aware of this series and content. While the team is unaware of any specific incidents related to this series, they want to let you know that they will continue to do everything they can to support student mental health and well-being needs. As students raise questions about the series, staff will address the content in ways that are sensitive and appropriate, especially with the most vulnerable students.

You may want to ask your child or teen if they have heard of or seen this series. Suggestions that may help with the conversation include: encouraging critical thinking and reminding them the series is fictional and includes many unrealistic elements; and reminding them it is normal to experience periods of stress and distress. Offer healthy coping strategies such as exercise, talking to friends and exploring nature. Remind them to always seek support if they need it from family members, counsellors, coaches, teachers, faith leaders, or a crisis line like Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868).

Talk openly about emotional distress and suicide says the mental health team. Doing so doesn’t make someone more suicidal. If you have concerns about your child or teen’s mental health, see your family physician and speak to the principal or vice-principal right away.

Take all questions seriously. If the concern is more urgent, call the Peel Children’s Centre Crisis Response Service at 416-410-8615, take your child to a hospital emergency department or call 911.

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