Parents: Be Ready to Talk About Season 3 of ‘13 Reasons Why’

Premier Health Now
Character Clay Jensen from the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why

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As Netflix prepares for the season three premiere of its popular “13 Reasons Why” series on August 23, parents should do their research, educate themselves and be ready to talk with their teens about the show’s topics of depression, suicide, bullying, and sexual assault.

The streaming service announced in July that it deleted the controversial suicide scene from season one. The season three trailer reveals that main character Bryce Walker is dead, and reports are that no suicides occur in the next 13 episodes.    

To understand how television and movies can influence teen behavior, Premier Health Now talked with Sarah Byram, MS Ed, LPCC, of Samaritan Behavioral Health. The editing of the graphic suicide scene in season one is significant, as teens might binge-watch seasons one and two in anticipation of the new season, Byram says. Teens are likely to be curious about why it was removed and may search for it somewhere else online. 

“A show like this, despite its provocative shock value, does give some insight into what our teens are dealing with daily,” says Byram. “It gives us a glimpse into being a teenager in this digital age where there is immense cyber bullying, sexuality is front and center, and everything generates an immediate reaction – and all the consequences of that.”

The more open we are with the teens in our lives, the more we let adolescents know that it’s OK and normal to feel scared or anxious, she explains. Teens need to understand that seeking help from a trusted adult for themselves or a friend is not being weak or tattling, Byram says. It’s showing strength.

Adults must take teens and their feelings seriously and be ready to listen, she advises, even if the topics are uncomfortable. 

“As counselors we find that teens talk so fluently about self harm, suicide, and sex, that we have to address it in a normal sense,” Byram says. “It is very much a part of their vocabulary and lives.”

Talking openly with your child or students about depression, suicide, sexual assault and consent, and bullying reduces the stigma surrounding mental health and can help pinpoint coping strategies.  

“Going to a counselor or therapy when you are struggling with depression or another issue should be as commonplace as seeing the orthopedist when you think you sprained your ankle,” Byram says. “Teens need to know that they are allowed to talk to someone else. It doesn't have to be just mom and dad.” 

11 Ways To Talk With Your Teen About “13 Reasons Why”

Whether you watch “13 Reasons Why” with your teen or separately, the show provides many opportunities for discussion. Byram offers these questions from a Netflix discussion guide you can use to start a dialogue:

  1. Did the characters in the show act like any of your friends? How were they different? Who did you most relate to?
  2. Do you think that the series showed the full struggle that you and your friends deal with at school and outside of school?
  3. Does anything that you saw on the show change how you look at things in real life? What seemed overly dramatic? What wasn't shown enough?
  4. Do you think the adults did anything wrong? How could they have responded differently or better?
  5. What would you do if a friend of yours was talking about self harm or suicide?
  6. Who would you go to if you were struggling with depression, bullying, or sexual assault?
  7. Have you ever wanted to tell someone about a bullying or assault situation but did not want to be involved, or were too scared to talk to any adult?
  8. How often have you witnessed bullying?
  9. Do you understand consent? What does it mean to you and how are you preparing yourself to hold your boundaries?
  10. Do you know how to offer your friends compassion, support, empathy and care when they encounter any of these situations?
  11. Do you know the symptoms of depression? Have you had friends who have talked about suicide?

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