Popular Netflix series prompts warnings in local school districts

Mental health experts, school administrators and parents are growing increasingly concerned about the popular Netflix series “13 Reasons Why.”

The show depicts, and critics say glorifies, teen suicide.

It’s about a high school girl who kills herself in despair and depression, leaving audiotapes for the people she says led her to take her life -- her rapist, her bullies and even her friends.  The tapes are viewed by some as a justification for the act.

Some mental health experts say the show could pose health risks for certain vulnerable teenagers, especially those who may be having suicidal thoughts.

“We became aware of the show and how it depicts suicide,” says Dr. Shawn Schleizer, asstistant superindent of East Maine District 63.  “(We) wanted to inform parents that it doesn’t provide an accurate depiction of how children and young adults should address life’s challenges and sensitive topics like suicide, sexual assault bullying kids can experience.”

School districts in the Chicago-area, are warning parents.

The East Maine School District is one of several in the area sending letters home to parents warning about the series and providing information about how to deal with depression.

“We encouraged them to talk with their children openly and honestly about emotion a distress and sensitive topics,” Dr. Schleizer says.

Jack Rosenberger is a licensed clinical social worker and the clinical director of Spark of Creation Therapy in Evanston. He says the series has been a topic in recent therapy sessions.

He advises parents to talk to their children about it.

“Engage them, and don’t be afraid of even a short course of brief therapy,” he says.

And that’s the advice repeated from mental health professionals and teachers.  The best thing you can do as a parent is to talk to your kids about these issues and explicitly let them know they can come to you, or other trusted adults if they’re having suicidal thoughts.