By: Rochelle Kruszka, M.A., LMFT
YSB Youth-Focused Family Therapist

13 Reasons Why, the controversial Netflix series, released its second
season on Friday, May 18, 2018. This series continues to focus on suicide, sexual assault, and bullying as shown in season one. Season two builds on these topics and also includes other difficult subjects like substance use/abuse and gun violence. If you haven’t seen it, be sure to check out YSB’s Parent Guide to season one.
 

Why should parents be concerned?

According to a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, following season one, internet searches related to suicide increased about 19% above expectation in the 19 days following the release of the series. More specifically, there was a 26% increase in searches for “how to commit suicide.” While this does not mean that there was an actual increase in attempts, research trends have been shown to be correlated with actual suicides or attempts.

Netflix has attempted to respond to the criticisms from parents and mental health professionals by taking a number of steps this season. Before watching the series, there is an introduction by a few of the actors playing characters in the show. The actors encourage viewers to consider whether they struggle with some of these issues, and if so, “this series may not be right for you.” Following each episode, during the credits, there is a voiceover encouraging anyone who may need it to find resources at their website: 13reasonswhy.info. The website lists resources for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) and the Crisis Text Line (741741). There are also weblinks for online resources for various topics including suicide prevention, gun violence, bullying, and substance use.

The creators of the show have stated that one of the main goals of the show is to “start a conversation” about some of these topics. The way that some of these topics are introduced or addressed on the show makes it difficult to believe that this is really their goal due to the gratuitous nature of how these topics are depicted. Many times, the series shows exactly what NOT to do.

Netflix has put out a discussion guide for use when watching the series, which can help to guide the conversations that parents are having with their kids. However, most of the middle and high school students that I see do not watch the show with their parents. In fact, many of the parents have no idea their child is watching this show or what it is.

What to watch out for in season two: