13 Reasons Why is the Netflix special everyone is talking about. The series is rated MA for mature audiences and explores suicide, bullying, sexual assault, and many other serious topics teens and young adults face. The series contains graphic depictions in some episodes. I have not read the book 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher yet, but it is my understanding that the book is significantly different. This post is about the Netflix series.
I searched for a discussion guide to go with the Netflix series but I am disturbed to find some had the tendency to minimize the issues. I found an excellent list of talking points to start meaningful discussion from the JED Foundation and provided that link below.
If you have any suggestions to add to my list, please put them in the comment section.
It seems a common thread among some of the people who discuss the series often include an element of denial. Instead of closing our eyes, perhaps a better way to address the issues brought up by 13 Reasons Why is to ask questions, listen, and guide our young people. If your teen or young adult has not watched, I still suggest parents look for ways to bring up the subject matter.
Thirteen Reasons Why is rated MA.
If your teen/young adult has already watched, I strongly suggest you watch each episode, stop, and discuss. Take time to process. This series deals with heavy topics and is emotionally draining.
Advice for Parents
Talking with kids can be hard. Decide what the most important topics are to bring up to your young person and ask questions, letting them do most of the talking. This is a time to offer guidance rather than lecture. Bring the topics up more than once.
I would be very honest with your young people. Perhaps not every person they go to for help will respond appropriately, but most adults are here to help. Sometimes asking once isn’t enough.
Relate a personal story to them if you have one and offer solutions.
Do not minimize your young person’s concerns and experiences.
Ask direct questions.
Talk to them. Not only once, but continually.
Know what they are watching.
I am not a mental health professional. The questions listed below are simply the type that can be used to start a dialog. Each of these suggested questions should lead to many more.
What did you take away from this story?
What do you think this series is about? Is it about more than one thing?(Some young people may miss that this story is driven by Hannah’s revenge against those she feels responsible for her suicide.)
Which of the characters seems the most balanced or healthy emotionally? Why do you think that is?
Are any of the depictions in this series believable? Which ones? Which actions are not?
What behaviors do each of the characters engage in that are questionable or plainly wrong? What should they have done? In this situation, what would you do?
What do you think you would do if you found yourself in some of the situations Hannah does?
How can you decide what secrets should be kept and which should be told? Who should you tell? Why or why not?
What are the signs of suicide? Other emotional issues?
How can you help someone who is suicidal?
How do our actions impact others? How do their actions impact us? How can we deal with that?
Who is the victim in this story? Is there more than one victim?
How does the school depicted compare to your school?
After each episode ask you young person for their takeaway, and what they thought. Examine the ideas put forth. Ask “what did you think” and “why or why not”.
If you seek help and are ignored or denied, what should you do then?
Does this story have a ‘call to action”? What is it?
What do you think of some of the reactions people have had to 13 Reasons? Can you give examples of appropriate/inappropriate reactions? Explain.
For further reading
Click here for a link to resources on 13 Reasons Why the Netflix Series from the National Association of School Psychologists
Keep talking and discussing books, movies, and issues with your children and young adults.
Please add to the discussion by commenting below.