13 Rea­sons to talk to your kids

Ex­perts warn teens should not be left to watch alone

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - DUN­CAN LAY

PAR­ENTS have been warned not to let their chil­dren watch sea­son two of the con­tro­ver­sial TV show 13 Rea­sons Why alone.

The show, based on a book about a school­girl who com­mits sui­cide, made head­lines last year with men­tal health au­thor­i­ties claim­ing it glam­or­ised the is­sue.

Sea­son two is due to air on Net­flix from May 18 and this time it comes with ded­i­cated on­line re­sources that ex­perts urge par­ents to use to talk with their teenagers about sui­cide be­fore let­ting them watch it.

13 Rea­sons Why, which stars Aus­tralian ac­tor Kather­ine Lang­ford, also brings in many other “re­ally dis­tress­ing themes” in­clud­ing sex­ual as­sault and bul­ly­ing.

Headspace se­nior clin­i­cal ad­viser Nick Duigan said the or­gan­i­sa­tion had “sig­nif­i­cant con­cerns and warn­ings” af­ter feel­ing the im­pact of the first sea­son.

This time around, Net­flix ap­proached Headspace be­fore the new sea­son to brief the or­gan­i­sa­tion and give them time to pre­pare “good qual­ity” in­for­ma­tion on a se­ries of “re­ally dis­tress­ing themes”.

Sea­son two also has the po­ten­tial to be “very un­safe but don’t let it get to that stage”, he said.

“The mes­sage is, get in­formed. Start con­ver­sa­tions early and at a time when both par­ties aren’t rushed, stressed or pres­sured. Be will­ing to hear young peo­ple out. Be pre­pared on how to sup­port them. Watch for changes for what is nor­mal for them. Watch­ing the show is dif­fer­ent for ev­ery per­son, de­pen­dent on ear­lier ex­pe­ri­ences.”

Headspace de­vel­oped a se­ries of tools based around the show af­ter the first sea­son aired. Mr Duigan said the show does raise many talk­ing points and could help par­ents con­nect more with their chil­dren.

“It can be help­ful and use­ful and lead to re­ally good out­comes but for oth­ers it may not be the case,” he said. “Build a sup­port net­work and watch it to­gether.”

This is also the theme of The Sun­day Tele­graph’s on­go­ing Can We Talk? cam­paign, which en­cour­ages par­ents to have dif­fi­cult con­ver­sa­tions with their chil­dren rather than ig­nore those top­ics and pos­si­bly in­crease the risk of sui­cide.

Mind­frame Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion pro­gram man­ager Marc Bryant said par­ents need to use the on­line re­sources avail­able. “Net­flix came to us late last year and wanted to hear our ideas. We said that if we are on the front foot with new shows that have sen­si­tive con­tent, we can help with mit­i­gat­ing strate­gies and, in the case of 13 Rea­sons Why sea­son two, agen­cies such as Headspace be­ing able to pre­pare schools for dif­fi­cult con­ver­sa­tions,” he said.

“13 Rea­sons Why opened up con­ver­sa­tions. How­ever, health ex­perts, such as Mind­frame, say the ev­i­dence shows it has the po­ten­tial to trig­ger vul­ner­a­ble au­di­ences.

“Oth­ers felt it was help­ful to shown the hard re­al­i­ties of sui­cide.”

13 Rea­sons Why ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Brian Yorkey told The Sun­day Tele­graph the goal was “to make a show that could get par­ents and teens talk­ing”.

“We wanted to speak to young peo­ple, and to the lives they live to­day, and to do that we had to tell the truth. We had to be hon­est about the painful re­al­ity of sui­cide.

“To shy away from it, or worse, to make it look less painful than it is, would be dis­hon­est and de­cep­tive in the worst way.

“We needed to be clear that the ex­pe­ri­ence was hor­rific, and that the pain for those left be­hind is dev­as­tat­ing. We’re not en­dors­ing Han­nah’s choice — quite the op­po­site.

“We wanted to make it very clear that there is noth­ing glam­orous about Han­nah’s de­ci­sion, the act it­self, or the after­math. It’s so im­por­tant that fam­i­lies are able to talk about the strug­gles teens face to­day.

“Rather than glam­or­is­ing any of these is­sues, re­search from North­west­ern Uni­ver­sity has shown that sea­son one ac­tu­ally raised aware­ness of dif­fi­cult top­ics and started im­por­tant con­ver­sa­tions. Through­out the sea­son two cre­ative process, we have been work­ing closely with ex­pert or­gan­i­sa­tions across the world to de­velop re­sources that of­fer in­for­ma­tion, ad­vice and sup­port to any­one af­fected by the is­sues high­lighted in 13 Rea­sons Why.”

Lang­ford, who plays Han­nah Baker, the char­ac­ter who com­mits sui­cide in sea­son one, said she had not just be­come a face of anti-bul­ly­ing but also a con­tact point for trou­bled teens. “Young peo­ple have it a lot harder now in terms of bul­ly­ing and so­cial me­dia,” she said.

She said the in­ter­net en­abled face­less bul­ly­ing through harm­ful words with­out any face-to-face con­se­quences. “That is why I felt it was im­por­tant to be on so­cial me­dia. If they needed a page or want a space or a pro­file or if they just want to reach out, they are able to go there and con­nect to me via that,” she said.

Aus­tralian ac­tor Kather­ine Lang­ford, star of tele­vi­sion se­ries 13 Rea­sons Why.

Dy­lan Min­nette and Lang­ford.

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