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Child psychologist advises parents about pros, cons of controversial Netflix show

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SALT LAKE CITY — Schools across the nation are issuing warnings to parents about Netflix’s latest original series “13 Reasons Why,” including three school districts in Utah.

Canyons School District reached out to parents this week letting them know about the resources available to their children.

“At the schools, we have counselors at every building and we have a Canyons Family Center that gives counseling to students and their parents,” said Tori Gillett, Canyons School District’s counseling coordinator.

The series, which is rated TV-MA, follows a teenager's efforts to uncover the story behind his classmate's decision to end her life.

Gillett said her biggest concern is for students who might binge watch the series alone and who don’t have the opportunity to process what they’re seeing with an adult.

The district is also offering talking points for parents to use to start an important conversation about suicide.

Since the release of the series, the district has seen an increase in students reaching out and asking questions about suicide. “They are coming down saying, ‘You know, I watched this, it brought up a bunch of these feelings,’ and, ‘You know, I've experienced some of the same things,’” Gillett said.

For show creators, discussion was the goal, but for psychologists and suicide experts, opinions vary on whether or not the series can help or harm teens.

Child psychologist Adam Schwebach said although the series shows the topic of suicide in a controversial light, it can also spark an important conversation.

“If anything, this has brought up an opportunity for us to talk about this and maybe why these are real concerns and what we need to do about these concerns,” Schwebach said.

He suggested parents ask their teens if they have seen the show, and if so, to make sure they understand the message.

“Talk to your teen about (suicide),” he said. “Re-evaluate your relationship with your teen and make sure that you are close to them and talking to them about these topics.”

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, these services can help:

13 Reasons Why help page: http://13reasonswhy.info/#usa

National Suicide Prevention Online Chat: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/#

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Utah CrisisLine: 1-801-587-3000

Utah "Safe UT" app information: https://healthcare.utah.edu/uni/clinical-services/safe-ut/

Other Helpful Links:

National Association of School Psychologists "Considerations for Educators"

Jed Foundation: Talking Points for discussing the Netflix Series

Contributing: Xoel Cardenas


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Utah
Ashley Moser

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