Warning: this article discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling, please seek help. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or chat online here between 7pm and 4am.
The recent release of 13 Reasons Why Season 2 has seen Netflix come under a huge amount of scrutiny from parents and organisations around the world with claims that the second season was unnecessary, is too graphic and glamourizes underage drinking, drugs and suicide.
The hugely popular first season follows a teenage girl who takes her own life and leaves behind 13 tapes detailing how her peers’ actions led to her decision. The second season shows the aftermath of her decision as her parents and friends search for answers and closure.
Since the release of the first season we have seen a rise in suicide related conversations, questions, concerns and sadly, attempts. However Executive Director of Services at Act for Kids and child psychologist, Dr Katrina Lines feels that parents need to view the show as a teaching opportunity rather than banning their teens from watching it.
“By refusing to let your teenagers watch the show you could be causing more harm than good. Regardless of their age, grade or maturity, you have to assume there are conversations around the show and its themes happening at school that may entice your child to watch it,” Dr Lines said.
“If your child is going to watch it, it’s better they do it with you or another trusted adult rather than alone and in secret. Use the show as an opportunity to have conversations about mental health. Make sure they know about all the alternatives to suicide and the treatments that can help them.
“Don’t be afraid to talk about suicide and other tough issues such as sexual assault with your kids, because when we avoid it we are adding to the stigma and shame that keeps them suffering alone.” Dr Lines said.
Act for Kids CEO Dr Neil Carrington, worked as a teacher and school counsellor before taking on the role at Act for Kids and knows that one of the biggest fears a child or young person has around disclosing abuse, sexual assault or suicidal thoughts is that they won’t be believed or taken seriously.
“As parents and educators, it’s incredibly important to listen to our kids and to validate their thoughts and feelings. Let them know they won’t get in trouble, your concern is for their safety and those around them,” Dr Carrington said.
“There are a number of resources that have been created for children and for parents in response to the show, I really encourage parents to educate themselves, not only about the content of the show but also the warning signs of depression, trauma and anxiety.
“If you do decide to watch the show with your child make sure you are taking steps to manage the themes and feelings it might bring up for you or your child,” Dr Carrington says.
If you’re worried about the questions your children might have and how to answer them, then do some preparation and have some strategies in place to ensure you are all feeling ok. These could include:
- Read some helpful resources:
- Read some spoilers if you don’t want to watch the whole show. Knowing what’s coming up will help you know whether or not to skip a part of the show or to pause to talk about what you just watched.
- Tell your child you can pause or stop watching at any time.
- Don’t binge watch the episodes with your child. Make sure you leave time in between for the questions and feelings that might come up for them and yourself.
- Make sure that you and your children are doing lots of healthy activities such as going for a walk or exercising and spending time with friends and family.
- Talk to your child about the best ways to solve problems when things feel bad. A problem shared with someone who cares is a problem halved.