“13 Reasons Why” is difficult on many levels

I recently watched “13 Reasons Why” so I had better perspective when reading the myriad of articles about this controversial show. I found it to be an extremely difficult and concerning program, one that I as a parent would not have let my teen watch without my husband and myself present to discuss the issues and her thoughts immediately afterward.

As many articles have said, the issue of mental illness is virtually ignored, and the show instead presents suicide as a way to “get even” and place blame. This fictional program does shine a light on many disturbing social issues, from communication and support between friends, to various types of bullying, the effects of the “bro code,” the attitude of rape culture, and more. These concepts are troubling, even sinister, especially to young people – and the show does provide a way to open discussions. However, the rape and suicide scenes are exceptionally (and some experts say inappropriately) graphic, which can hit many very hard.

If you are trying to decide whether or not to allow your child to watch the show, please check out the various articles written about it. If your child is experiencing any level of depression or other mental illness, I agree with the experts that it would not be appropriate. I’d also suggest that you ask your child if s/he is watching the show – some are watching on their own, or with friends, and may not be receiving the support they could require to navigate the difficult topics.

Here is a good talking-point resource, and below is a statement Nationwide Children’s Hospital has sent out to school district leadership. I find the post on Nationwide Children’s blog (linked below) especially insightful.


Dear District Leader,

We want to make you aware that there is a recently released series on Netflix called “13 Reasons Why” that explores the topic of youth suicide, but does so in a way that is concerning. As a hospital system, we have begun to have youth present with increased distress and harmful behavior who have been triggered by this show and its portrayal of suicide. We’ve noticed that students who are already vulnerable to mental health concerns may be at highest risk. Please consider reading and sharing the following blog: https://700childrens.nationwidechildrens.org/13-reasons-parents-concerned-netflix-series/. Graphic depictions of suicide and sexual assault in a show geared towards young people has led to a need to inform parents and educators of the risks inherent in this show. Feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns.

Thank you for your consideration of this important issue! 

Kind regards,
John Ackerman, Ph.D.
Suicide Prevention Coordinator
Center for Suicide Prevention and Research
Nationwide Children’s Hospital Behavioral Health
Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
Phone: 614-355-0814


**If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “LISTEN” to 741-741.**


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