JCPS sends letter to parents about Netflix suicide show '13 Reas - WDRB 41 Louisville News

JCPS sends letter to parents about Netflix suicide show '13 Reasons Why'

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Newcomer Katherine Langford plays the role of Hannah, a young woman who takes her own life. Source: Netflix Newcomer Katherine Langford plays the role of Hannah, a young woman who takes her own life. Source: Netflix

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Netflix original miniseries that is getting a lot of attention throughout the country prompted Jefferson County Public Schools to send a resource letter to thousands of its parents on Wednesday afternoon.

The letter refers to '13 Reasons Why,' a fictional show that chronicles the suicide of a young woman who leaves behind a series of 13 messages for specific people in her life that she blames for her death. It is based on a novel by the same name.

Allison Martin, a spokeswoman for the district, said the letter was sent home to parents after several of the district's guidance counselors noted that discussion about the miniseries had been popping up in classrooms and school buildings.

"It's a conversation our guidance counselors were having with students and parents and they wanted to know what resources were available to them, Martin said. "These resources were communicated with our guidance counselors last week and we wanted to get the information directly into the hands of parents, so they can have those conversations at home as well."

Mental health experts and organizations have been critical of the series since its March 31 premiere.

In a recent blog entry about the series, the National Association of School Psychologists says "schools have an important role in preventing youth suicide, and being aware of potential risk factors in students’ lives is vital to this responsibility."

The organization says the show could bring potential risks posed by the sensationalized treatment of youth suicide and that they don't recommend that vulnerable youth watch the series.

Here is what the JCPS letter states:

Dear JCPS Families:

'13 Reasons Why' is a Netflix original miniseries that is getting a lot of attention throughout the country. This show chronicles the suicide of a young woman who leaves behind a series of 13 messages for specific people in her life that she blames for her death.  It is based on a work of fiction by the same name.

Unfortunately, suicide is all too real.  In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide was the third leading cause of death for people ages 10-24.  Given that fact, it is important that you know how to address this series with your child.  The National Association of School Psychologists has recommended the following: "We do not recommend that vulnerable youth, especially those who have any degree of suicidal ideation, watch this series. Its powerful storytelling may lead impressionable viewers to romanticize the choices made by the characters and/or develop revenge fantasies."

If your student has watched the series, or has mentioned it at all, it is recommended that you discuss the show with your child.  If you have not seen the series, you may want to watch it yourself, or possibly view it with your student; however, it may not be appropriate for some students at all as it is graphic and depicts scenes of suicide, rape, sexual assault, alcohol use and violence. Also, please be advised that students without access to Netflix can still view parts of the series on YouTube.

If you feel you need additional guidance on suicidal thoughts, depression or how to address the series, we encourage you to talk with your child's school counselor.  We have also included talking points and general guidance for families.  Thank you for partnering with us to keep your child safe.

Guidance for Families:

  • Ask your child if he or she has heard or seen the series '13 Reasons Why.' While we don't recommend that they be encouraged to view the series, do tell them you want to watch it, with them or to catch up, and discuss their thoughts.
  • If they exhibit any of the warning signs, don't be afraid to ask if they have thought about suicide or if someone is hurting them. Raising the issue of suicide does not increase the risk or plant the idea. On the contrary, it creates the opportunity to offer help.
  • Ask your child if they think any of their friends or classmates exhibit warning signs. Talk with them about how to seek help for their friend or classmate. Guide them on how to respond when they see or hear any of the warning signs.
  • Listen to your children's comments without judgment. Doing so requires that you fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said. Put your own agenda aside.
  • Get help from a school-employed or community-based mental health professional if you are concerned for your child's safety or the safety of one of his or her peers.

In addition the district has provided these additional resources: See 13 Reasons Why Talking Points, Preventing Youth Suicide Brief Facts (also available in Spanish) and Preventing Youth Suicide: Tips or Parents and Educators for additional information.

In Louisville, children, teens and families can call Centerstone (formerly Seven Counties Services) 24-hour crisis line at 502-589-8070. Centerstone is one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit providers of community-based behavioral health care.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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