13 Reasons Why we must continue the dialogue

Alycia Douglass
13 Reasons Why we must continue the dialogue
The Netflix original series

CORNWALL, Ontario – Netflix original series, 13 Reasons Why has attracted quite a bit of controversy since its March 31 release.

Based on the 2007 novel by Jay Asher, the series tackles issues of bullying, rape, and suicide. The show revolves around the character of Hannah Baker, who commits suicide, leaving behind a box of cassette tapes, revealing the thirteen reasons for ending her life.

The series has sparked a great deal of discussion about suicide prevention, with many questioning whether the show accurately depicts the struggle of an individual dealing with mental illness.

Recently, the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO) responded with a letter to parents, stating that the show ‘sensationalizes the act of suicide, which could lead to vulnerable students being at risk.’

Superintendent of School Effectiveness, Dr. Donaleen Hawes says that the series is not being recommended by mental health professionals in the province, with many boards following suit.

“I think the reason many mental health professionals have taken this position is that it is a very detailed series,” said Dr. Hawes. “While the producers may say ‘this is accurate because many youth do not reach out,’ we’re actively trying to change that.”

The letter details ways to talk to your kids about the show if they have seen or heard of it. Dr. Hawes says that it was written to open up a dialogue between children and parents on the topic of suicide.

“While kids may be reading something like Romeo and Juliet, they likely aren’t engaging with it in the same way,” said Dr. Hawes. “This series is current, and it’s being presented in a way which reveals the innermost thoughts and experiences, which is implying that they impacted on the ultimate decision.”

Loyalist College student, Emily Edwards recently took to social media with a video titled ‘13 Reasons Why I’m Against 13 Reasons Why’ underlining her issues with the show.

Edwards says that while she agrees the topic of suicide certainly has a place on screen, she feels the series paints a dangerous picture of how to respond to bullying.

“Many people are talking about the show in a positive light, and I can kind of understand why,” said Edwards. “Not many shows move forward and make a show that’s about a young girl committing suicide. It’s controversial, and it’s a hard thing to watch.”

Hawes says that strong support systems are the greatest asset to someone dealing with depression or any other mental illness. If you or someone you know might be at risk for suicide, you can call the Mental Health Crisis Line, toll-free 1-866-996-0991.


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