May 4, 2017
Today is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, and one mental health topic that’s been on the mind of many parents, caregivers, clinicians, and educators lately is the Netflix TV series, 13 Reasons Why.
As you may know, the plot follows the journey of 17-year-old Clay Jensen as he pieces together the story behind his classmate, Hannah Baker’s decision to take her own life. The narrative unfolds through a string of prerecorded cassette tapes that Hannah leaves behind, detailing in depth the 13 reasons behind her final decision.
Since its March 31 debut, the instantly viral show, adapted from the 2007 bestselling young adult novel, has spurred a torrent of responses in the news and online media. And for good reason. The show presents some pretty heavy content targeted at a teen audience, including bullying, sexual assault, and suicide.
At The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds, we have been following the fallout of the series with great attention. We are reviewing all of the media hype, reviews, commentaries and guidance about the series – from CNN and The New York Times, to the Jed Foundation and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – in order to process and plan the thoughtful response you’ve come to expect from us. Obviously this show will, and has already, spark a wide range of responses from young people and adults, due to some of the disturbing content.
For now, we’d like to offer some general guidelines and considerations:
One of the most important values of narratives in the arts, such as this series, is the opportunity it creates for candid conversations with our teenagers that may be productive in understanding their own emotional lives and in furthering their development. Again, individual teens will have a wide range of emotional reactions to the show, as illustrated in this recent New York Magazine article, so you won’t know until you ask.
This isn’t the last you’ll hear from us on 13 Reasons Why – we’ll follow up again soon.
Until then, remember that you are the best expert on your teens and they rely on you for guidance, advice, comfort and understanding. Keep the conversations going.