Letter to Parents from the Anchorage School District: 13 Reasons Why
In light of the recent release of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, Season 2, questions from staff, families and community members have been raised.
The intense, graphic portrayal of difficult issues involving youth present both the risk of triggering harmful behaviors among some vulnerable youth and the opportunity for adults to engage in meaningful and supportive discussions with youth about these issues. It is important that parents, caregivers, educators, and other adults working with children and youth are aware of the potential impact and are prepared to respond appropriately. Due to the timing of the show’s release, it is helpful for families to remember the importance of good communication with their children, as many adults they would normally seek out at school are unavailable with school not in session.
Anchorage School District practices preventative measures by creating a safe school environment, promoting positive relationships, and being supportive and responsive to individual student needs.
We are aware of and take seriously suicide risk warning signs*. We have established district protocol and procedures for students who demonstrate signs of self-harm, possible suicide or possible aggression toward others. School-based mental health providers (e.g., school counselors, school psychologists, school nurses) can assist parents and teachers to engage in supportive conversations with students and provide resources in preventing harmful behaviors.
Below are helpful tips and additional resources:
- We do not recommend that vulnerable youth watch the series, especially those who have any degree of self-harm. However, many youth are resilient and capable of differentiating between a TV drama and real life and engaging in thoughtful conversations with them about the show is vital. Doing so presents an opportunity to help them process the issues addressed, consider the consequences of certain choices, and reinforce the message that suicide is not a solution to problems and that help is available.
- While we don’t recommend children be encouraged to view the series, if they do watch it tell them you want to watch it with them and discuss their thoughts.
- If they exhibit any of the warning signs, don’t be afraid to ask if they have thought about suicide or if someone is hurting them. Raising the issue of suicide does not increase the risk or plant the idea. On the contrary, it creates the opportunity to offer help.
- Ask your child if they think any of their friends or classmates exhibit warning signs. Talk with them about how to seek help for their friend or classmate. Guide them on how to respond when they see or hear any of the warning signs*.
- Listen to your children’s comments without judgment. Doing so requires that you fully concentrate, understand, respond, and then remember what is being said. Put your own agenda aside.
- Get help from a school-employed or community-based mental health professional if you are concerned for your child’s safety or the safety of one of their peers.
*Possible warning signs: Suicidal threats – verbal, written or online postings; giving away prized possessions; preoccupation with death in conversation, writing, drawing, and social media; changes in behavior, appearance/hygiene, thoughts, and/or feelings; and emotional distress. See additional warning signs at https://afsp.org/about-suicide/risk-factors-and-warning-signs/
- See 13 Reasons Why Toolkit, 13 Reasons Why, Season 2, or 13 Reasons Why Netflix Series: Considerations for Educators at nasponline.org
- See Save a Friend: Tips for Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-8255, or text “START” to 741741
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, https://afsp.org/
The Anchorage School District