13 Reasons to talk to your kids
Experts warn teens should not be left to watch alone
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.