Letter to Families

Dear Families/Caregivers and Staff:

Perhaps you have heard that on March 31st Netflix released a new series called "13 Reasons Why." If you are not aware of this, you should know that our students have probably heard of it and may have already watched it. This series has become an instant attraction to young people across the country who are watching and reacting to it with friends and on social media. It is receiving so much media attention, it is our feeling you should be aware of the show, its contents and possible emotional effects on our young people. The show is about a young high school girl, Hannah, who takes her own life and sends out 13 cassette tapes to those whom she blames for her death, including the guidance counselor in the high school. The series was adapted from a book of the same name. While the show is fictional, the series is extremely graphic, including several rape scenes, and raises significant concerns about the emotional safety of those watching it. Students who may have vulnerability to this content include those with any form of mental health issues, those who have shown at risk behaviors, and those who are involved with alcohol or substance abuse or have had suicidal thoughts.

I have watched the entire series, and have many concerns about the content and how the suicidal girl was portrayed. The show fails to identify mental health issues as well as resources available to teens and makes the viewers think that suicide is only an external event when in reality bullying, excessive drinking/drug use, failure to identify mental issues and internal factors all contribute to the result of one looking to end their life. In order to address these issues with teenagers we need to remember to ask about what they are feeling and seeing--and we need to listen.

While there are some very disturbing and graphic scenes and ideas in the show, there are some notable teaching opportunities that can shed a light on suicide prevention and how to seek help. As adults, we may want to become familiar with the show, so that we may be able to have open conversations, rather than simply criticizing a series that our teens may already be watching and forming opinions on.

For more information from the New Jersey Youth Suicide Prevention Advisory Council please see the links posted on the pages dealing with teen suicide on this website.

I encourage you to talk to your children and use the resources listed below. If you have any questions or concerns, please call me or email me.

Andrew D. Evangelista
Mental Health and HIB Coordinator

Mental Health Resources

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273- TALK
  • New Jersey Youth Suicide Prevention Advisory Council: 855-NJ-HOPELINE (855-654-6735)
  • 2nd Floor Youth Helpline: 888-222-2228 (call or text)
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