Letter to Westwind Families: 13 Reasons Why Season 2

Dear Westwind School Division Families,

Last spring we sent you an email about our concerns surrounding the Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, regarding its potential impact around suicide ideation, bullying and mental health.

As partners with you, we feel it necessary to make you aware that Season 2 of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why was released on May 18 and that some of our students are talking about it and watching it, either at home or at friend’s houses.  This season contains situations that may be upsetting for students, including bullying, gun violence, a planned school shooting, a rape scene, sexting, drug abuse and the attempt to heal after a suicide.

We join with mental health professionals across North America, the series producers, and many other school jurisdictions who feel that it is important that you be aware of this series and content.  Our major concern is that series like 13 Reasons Why can lead to misconceptions and misinformation about suicide, and possibly to the glorification of suicide and suicide contagion.

Creators of this series have promoted it as a tool to prevent suicide and help students recognize their impact on others, however, we have concerns that it does not adequately address mental illness or present viable alternatives to suicide, including seeking support from mental health professionals. We do acknowledge and appreciate that Netflix has provided helpful resources for their audience at www.13reasonswhy.info and that each episode of season two begins with an actor providing a public service announcement directing viewers to resources to receive support and counselling.

We encourage you to ask your child/teen if they have heard of or seen this series. The following are suggestions that may help with the conversation:

  • Explain to your child/teen that the show is fictitious entertainment that uses drama and shocking emotional situations to keep us watching.

  • Remind them that the series is fictional and includes many unrealistic elements and that suicide is permanent, and the victim does not share their story after their death.

  • Talk with your child about how gossip and rumours can be damaging, hurtful and unnecessary

  • Remind them to always seek support if they need it from family members, counsellors, coaches, teachers, faith leaders, and/or a crisis line like Kids Help Phone, 1-800-668-6868, etc.

  • Discuss that mood changes are normal and happen to everyone – stress and distress can teach us resilience and help us grow

  • Talk openly about emotional distress and suicide. Doing so doesn't make someone more suicidal. If you have concerns about the  mental health of your child/teen, see your family physician and speak to the principal or vice-principal right away. If the concern is more urgent take your child to a hospital emergency department or call 911.

  • Please be proactive in the conversations with your children and contact school administration or Family School Liaison Counsellors should you have any concerns about your child’s safety, or the safety or wellbeing of one of their friends or classmates.

We have provided two resources below for you to refer to for more information, or you can visit www.13reasonswhytoolkit.org for additional information.  Our school counsellors, family school liaison counsellors and principals have also received this information. All of our counsellors have received Suicide Intervention Training as well as many of our school administrators and our Assistant Superintendent with responsibility for students.  Additionally, Westwind has committed resources to Hope Squads (www.hopesquad.com) which started in a handful of schools in 2017-18 and will be expanding in 2018-19 as an additional support to our students.

As always, if you have individual concerns about your child/teen related to mental health, or need additional resources, please contact the school. Thank you for partnering with us to support student mental health and well-being.