Loudoun County school officials sent an email to parents last week warning about a Netflix series they say sensationalizes suicide.
The letter said the school system has heard concerns from educators and parents about the fictional series “13 Reasons Why.” The show, rated for mature audiences, details the story of a 17-year-old girl who leaves behind 13 audiotapes prior to her suicide. The tapes reveal how her relationships with others led to her suicide. The episodes include graphic content involving sexual assaults and the act of suicide. Mental health professionals have raised concerns about the potential risks that exist for some teenagers because of the sensationalized treatment of suicide.
“The decision to allow your children to watch this series is, of course, a personal choice,” the email reads. “However, given the abundance of concern from professional organizations and mental health professionals, we wanted to make you aware of its potential effect.”
The email provided a link to an article from the National Association of School Psychologists website that provides information about how to approach children about the show. [Read it here.] It also encouraged families to read about youth suicide warning signs at youthsuicidewarningsigns.org or connect with local resources.
Through Loudoun County Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Developmental Services, help is available 24 hours, seven days a week at 703-777-0320 for those experiencing an immediate and severe emotional crisis. The Crisis Intervention Team Assessment Center, at 102 Heritage Way, Leesburg, is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily with mental health professionals available for anyone in crisis. Non-emergency appointments can be made at 703-771-5100.
“If you wish to discuss concerns regarding your child and the issue of suicide,” the letter states, “please contact your school counselors, school psychologist, or school social worker.”
[Read Neil McNerney’s related column, “A Counselor’s Take on ‘13 Reasons Why,’” here.]