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Parents suggested to keep lines of communication open with teens who watch 13 Reasons Why

Netflix’s latest series “13 Reasons Why” has taken the world by storm and has been at the centre of controversy since it debuted for its portrayal of sensitive issues such as rape and suicide.

Although the show, produced in part by pop singer Selena Gomez, is a powerful tool in generating conversation about these important issues, it has been criticized for its graphic and vivid scenes and parents have been warned about allowing their children to watch this show, especially if they have a history of mental illness or depression.

13 Reasons Why is based on a young adult novel written by Jay Asher and captures the story of Hanna Baker, a fictional American teenager, and her decision to end her life due to an environment of sexism and bullying in her high school. In 13 episodes, the series, bit by bit, unfolds the reasons she took her life through audio recordings she left behind for the 13 people she holds responsible.

The show has received much criticism from parents and mental health experts who warn that the series hits too close to home for some teens and romanticizes suicide. They also warn that the show can be potentially dangerous by triggering copy-cat suicides amongst teens.

Several school boards in Canada have sent advisory messages to parents or to teachers who might use the show as part of the curriculum.

“If your youth is considering watching the show, sit down and have a conversation with them about mental health, and resources that are available to them. Discuss that you are there to support them if they have any questions or concerns.

“Don’t let your youth isolate themselves while watching the show. The more a parent is aware of the content in the show, the easier it will be for the parents and the youth to have conversations about thoughts or feelings that come up. If your child is struggling with mental health issues, this show may not be the best suited for them, have this conversation with your youth about the concerns that you have,” said Tracy Mulligan, Clinician – Dedicated, Trenton Military Family Resource Centre.

Although the series carries a TV-MA rating, because of the recent backlash, Netflix promised recently to add additional warnings before the first episode.

“There has been a tremendous amount of discussion about our series 13 Reasons Why,” Netflix said in its statement. “While many of our members find the show to be a valuable driver for starting important conversation with their families, we have also heard concern from those who feel the series should carry additional advisories.”

The statement continued, “Currently the episodes that carry graphic content are identified as such, and the series overall carries a TV-MA rating. Moving forward, we will add an additional viewer warning card before the first episode as an extra precaution for those about to start the series and have also strengthened the messaging and resource language in the existing cards for episodes that contain graphic subject matter, including the URL 13ReasonsWhy.info — a global resource center that provides information about professional organizations that support help around the serious matters addressed in the show.”

If you are a loved one are facing difficulties due to mental illnesses help is available.

Military families can contact the Mental Health Team at their local MFRC. A number of MFRCs, such as the Trenton MFRC, can provide Child and Adolescent Counselling, Individual Counselling, Couples Counselling and Family Counselling for families experiencing a crisis.

Families can also contact:
The Family Information Line, a 24-hour confidential hotline for military families,: 1-800-866-4546

Canadian Forces Member Assistance Program: 1-800-268-7708

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868

The Child, Youth and Family Crisis Line  or the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention

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