How to Talk to Teens about 13 Reasons Why

The Netflix series, “13 Reasons Why” is a controversial drama that depicts the life of a teenage girl. Through the series we explore her life as she painfully describes in these 13 audio tapes why she committed suicide. The show loops in bullying, cyberbullying, rape, slut shaming, drugs, alcohol, and a lot of drama. As an educator and a psychologist, I am against using this series to teach youth about suicide ideation and self-harm. I find it romanticizes revenge suicide and omits the severity of depression. Regardless of my thoughts or opinions of this new show, educators are finding themselves at a loss for how to address this show in the classroom. Before you discuss the show, create a safe place to talk. Review the expectations of respect, trust, and confidentiality. Below are some discussion questions to work into your classroom to talk about this sensitive topic.


 13 Reason Why Questions/Topics to Address in the Classroom

  • How did you feel when you watched the show?
  • What are some thoughts about the main character Hannah?
  • How did you feel about the different characters?
  • What are some common things that happened in the show that you see at school?
    • Was what happened in the show realistic? If so, which parts? If not, which parts?
  • In the show what is closest to your current reality?
    • Bullying
    • Cyberbullying
    • Friendship drama
    • Slut shaming
    • Peer pressure
    • Drugs and alcohol
  • What does the word suicide mean to you?
  • Why don’t we talk more about suicide and self-harm (cutting)?
    • Why do you think we only talk about it when it’s too late?
  • How can we talk about this stuff more?
    • As teachers what do we need to do?
    • As parents what do we need to do?
    • As peers what do we need to do?
      • What happens when someone commits suicide? How does it impact:
    • Their family?
    • Their friends?
    • Their peers?
    • The community?
  • Why do some of your peers want to hurt themselves or think of suicide?
    • How can we as a whole help them?
    • What can you do as an individual help someone suffering from depression?
  • What can we take from the show and bring back to our school to help each other?
  • Why do some of your peers want to hurt themselves or think of suicide?
    • How can we help them?
  • Why do you think people don’t talk about suicide more until it is too late?
  • What can we take from the show and bring back to our school to help each other?
  • What are some signs to look for when we think someone might be contemplating suicide?
    • Extreme depression, giving away personal/prized possessions, increased substance abuse (drugs or alcohol), withdrawal from activities and social events, loss of interest, etc.
  • What are some steps we can take to address situations where we think someone might be contemplating suicide?
    • What can we do?
    • Who can we talk to about our concerns?

These are simple questions that can give you so much information. When we talk about these topics in school, we recommend you have trusted staff around you to address any students that need that extra help. I always work closely with the school counselor and social worker, to ensure that after I have these deep discussions, my students feel safe and protected. There is no way we can avoid “13 Reasons Why” so let’s use it to help foster better communication and strategies to help kids suffering from depression, bullying, and sexual assault.

We need to address suicide and take away the shame that these kids are carrying. When we eliminate shame, we give kids hope for a better tomorrow.

Until Next Time…
Kortney Peagram, Ph.D.
Be Brave*Be Strong*Be a Bulldog

Filed under: anti bullying programs

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