As the mother of a young woman who died by suicide and the founder of The Nan Project, an initiative to prevent suicide by young people, I am torn by “13 Reasons Why.” The Netflix series is an engaging story that delivers a flawed portrayal of suicide, starting with the sensationalism and the blaming of others for the teen’s decision. It does not talk about mental health, even though 90 percent of those who kill themselves have a diagnosable mental illness. It does not offer hope or help. A vulnerable teen who is steeped in despair and depression will see the series as a glamorous way (with instructions) to end his or her life.
On the other hand, “13 Reaons Why” has opened a door and given us the opportunity to discuss this very preventable means of death. Do we embrace the conversation and use it to understand and teach, or do we shut it down and put it back in the shadows to be sought out by isolated, hopeless teens who believe there are no other options?
My view is we need to bring the reality of suicide into the light while guiding the conversation and illuminating the path to help.
Watch it with your kid.