School’s re­sponse to teen show


Con­tro­ver­sial teen sui­cide show 13 Rea­sons Why has trig­gered an Auck­land school to write to stu­dents’ par­ents about men­tal health sup­port ser­vices.

The show has also trig­gered a small num­ber of calls from New Zealand teenagers to youth sup­port ser­vice Youth­line.

13 Rea­sons Why, which was re­leased in New Zealand on March 31 with an adult rat­ing, is a 13-part Net­flix US drama series about a teenage girl who com­mits sui­cide.

Ep­som pri­vate school St Cuth­bert’s Col­lege’s deputy prin­ci­pal Jus­tine Ma­hon said she was against the series and wrote to stu­dents’ par­ents to pro­vide as­sur­ance the school of­fered sup­port to stu­dents re­lat­ing to men­tal health is­sues.

‘‘We think the series’ mes­sages are ir­re­spon­si­ble - it pre­sented sui­cide as in­evitable and that is a com­pletely wrong mes­sage to send,’’ Mo­han said.

Ep­som mother of two Kris­ten Slade said she did not want her chil­dren ex­posed to the series.

‘‘I pre­fer to dis­cuss these is­sues openly with my chil­dren on my own terms,’’ Slade said.

Youth­line re­ceived six logged calls from peo­ple specif­i­cally re­lat­ing to 13 Rea­sons Why out of about 12,700 calls and texts in March and 13,000 in April.

The cases in­cluded con­cern for a friend who ex­pressed sui­ci­dal thoughts af­ter watch­ing the show, feel­ings of vul­ner­a­bil­ity and shock, and par­ents call­ing the helpline out of con­cern.

Youth­line spokes­woman Bri­ana Hill said Youth­line ex­pe­ri­enced a slight in­crease in con­tact num­bers in March and April.

‘‘This isn’t in­con­sis­tent with pre­vi­ous years - we note that school starts up in these months as well and a lot of anx­i­ety and other is­sues can come up as a re­sult,’’ Hill said.

There had been a lot of young peo­ple who ex­pressed ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the show be­cause it gen­er­ated con­ver­sa­tions that wouldn’t have hap­pened oth­er­wise, Hill said. Friends and fam­ily should have ‘‘coura­geous con­ver­sa­tions’’, Hill said.

Whether peo­ple were go­ing through a tough time them­selves, or were wor­ried about some­one else, talk­ing about it was im­por­tant, Hill said.

‘‘We ex­ist in the real world where tragic things hap­pen, it is our re­sponse to one another in the face of tragic cir­cum­stances and dif­fi­cult times that is so im­por­tant.’’


St Cuth­bert’s Col­lege deputy prin­ci­pal Jus­tine Ma­hon says the show 13 Rea­sons Why is ‘‘ir­re­spon­si­ble’’.

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