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Reasons for and against

The argument has been made for decades that violence on television has led to a desensitization of audience and potentially greater violence in society.  This is especially a concern for young people who take their cues from the media.

More recently, the concern has been youth suicide.  13 Reasons Why is the much-heralded Netflix series based on the Jay Asher, young adult novel about a teenager who kills herself and leaves a thirteen-part suicide note explaining the events that led to her final decision.  The series was produced by teen star Selena Gomez giving it tweet-worthy interest from the start.

Of course, given the subject matter, the series has garnered a lot of discussion amongst critics, mental health professionals and school boards.  The show is a well-crafted, well-written drama that deeply explores each character and pulls no punches in the subject matter.

However, mental health professionals are concerned with the depiction of inept and unfeeling adults in the drama.  They feel this could keep teens from seeking help from trained professionals.

Meanwhile, schools – some who have dealt with suicide amongst their pupils – are also understandably worried and have reached out to families in their districts.  They fear “vulnerable youth” will “romanticize the choices made by the characters and/or develop revenge fantasies.”

Given the speed at which teenage girls change their lipstick based on the youngest Kardashian’s latest Instagram, the concern is valid.

Another worry has been that, unlike the book, the series shows the suicide scene in graphic detail.  According to the show’s writer (a suicide survivor himself), this was intentionally done to show “the ultimate reality that suicide is not a relief at all – it’s a screaming, agonizing horror.”  So is this going to give young people ideas?

Possibly.  But so could a group whispering in the hallway or a D on a pop quiz.  Teens are hardly the most logical and strategic of thinkers.  They’re reactionary at the best of times.

Fortunately, they also like to talk – albeit to each other.  And 13 Reasons has created a lot of discussion.  Which means now is the time for the adults to get in on it.

Of course, how the heck do parents bring up the topic of suicide with their teens?

Funnily enough, there’s a series on right now that delves into just this subject.  Maybe some family viewing time would be a start.

Because 13 Reasons doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.  The series has been an overwhelming success – so much so that despite a natural and obvious conclusion to the original thirteen episodes, a second season is now being seriously discussed.  Some have hypothesized that it could focus on a character who survived a suicide attempt and what comes next.

As much as we’d like it to be so, teen depression and suicide won’t go away by just turning off the TV.  So if Season 1 of 13 Reasons Why starts potentially life-saving conversations, let’s keep it going with Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why … Not.