News / Vancouver

Mental health experts emphasize suicide awareness in light of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why

School boards and mental health experts urge parents to be aware of dangers around Netflix show

This image released by Netflix shows Katherine Langford in a scene from the series, "13 Reasons Why, " about a teenager who kills herself. The stomach-turning suicide scene has triggered criticism from some mental health advocates that it romanticizes suicide.

Beth Dubber/Netflix via AP

This image released by Netflix shows Katherine Langford in a scene from the series, "13 Reasons Why, " about a teenager who kills herself. The stomach-turning suicide scene has triggered criticism from some mental health advocates that it romanticizes suicide.

The Vancouver School board and mental health experts are warning parents about the dangers surrounding the Netflix series, 13 Reason Why.

The dramatization of suicide in the series, aimed at youth, could trigger people who have thought about killing themselves before or those who suffer from depression, according to mental health resources. The Vancouver School Board sent a letter to parents Friday, encouraging them to talk with their children to help them understand what the show is depicting.

It’s good advice because youth are especially at risk, says Jonny Morris, senior director of policy and planning at the Canadian Mental Health Association’s B.C. office.

“Research has shown there are sometimes risks when suicide is glamourized or overly dramatized,” he said.

“Its one thing to have suicide to be part of a story line. Its another to have it dramatically enacted with the ‘how’ spelled out in detail.”

Related:

The show also centers on the idea of communicating after death and blaming others for a characters’ decision to kill herself. That’s problematic for two reasons, said Morris.

“Suicide is permanent when it happens,” he emphasized.

“It’s always a tragic thing."

The idea that someone’s suicide is the fault of those around them can also be very harmful, said Morris.

“Grief through suicide is hard enough, so to have a message out there that it’s their fault is incredibly difficult.”

But despite the questionable nature of the show, young people are going to watch it and it’s futile to try and stop them, he said. The best things parents can do is have informed conversations about the real consequences of suicide and offer support if their child needs it. 

The Netflix show is an opportunity to highlight the role of friends and family when someone is struggling with depression, said Morris.

“What we encourage people to do is if they see someone struggling or especially if they’re talking about suicide, its absolutely imperative that we act.”

Young people looking for support can call 1-800-SUICIDE or chat with someone at YouthinBC.com.

More on Metronews.ca