13 Reasons Why may have plenty of fans, but not everyone is on board with Netflix's teen drama. As reported by MLive, Michigan's Grand Blanc school district has issued a warning to parents about Brian Yorkey's new series, which states that 13 Reasons Why could be harmful to the children and teens viewing it.
13 Reasons Why tells the story of Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), a high school student who dies by suicide and leaves behind a series of tapes explaining her "reasons why." While many (including this writer) have praised the series for its unflinching depiction of rape culture and sexual assault, others have criticized the series for the way in which Hannah chooses to end her life — something that Headspace, an Australian mental health foundation, stated could be triggering to those with suicidal thoughts. Superintendent Clarence Garner, who penned the letter, believes the latter.
"The reason we are bringing this to your attention is we are concerned that many parents may not even be aware that their child is viewing this very deeply emotional series, which is rated MA for mature audiences. While the series is fictional, as we all know young people can have a hard time discerning fiction from reality. We fear that after watching this series, some students may see suicide as a heroic or romantic act. This is counteractive to the message we have continued to send to our students that suicide is never the answer and that there are healthy ways to cope when having suicidal thoughts."
He also provided information on hotlines for suicide prevention as well as stressed the availability of school counselors who are "professionally trained and available to students." It's hard not to wonder if this is a direct reaction to the lack of services Hannah received on 13 Reasons Why. (The dismissal she received from Mr. Porter, played by Derek Luke, when reporting her rape became her final "reason why.")
Whatever you believe about 13 Reasons Why — whether it truly is a dangerous series, or one that can make teenagers understand the ramifications of bullying and realities of sexual assault — it is certainly opening up a dialogue. It's vital that schools stress (and follow through with) helping students in crisis, which this letter explained the Grand Blanc school district would make priority.
While 13 Reasons Why might not always be perfect material (or, at least, perfect material for every teenager to watch) it has certainly made alarm bells sound in the heads of administrators put in charge of caring for young people. That, in itself, is a big step in the right direction.
If you are thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.