Suicide-themed Netflix series concerns parents, psychologists

WASHINGTON — The popular Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” is causing some local middle schools to send letters home to parents, suggesting that they discuss suicide with their kids if they’re watching it.

“13 Reasons Why” tells the fictional story of a bullied student who kills herself.

“Educators, psychologists and some of us parents are really worried … it’s going to glamorize suicide, it’s going to encourage copycat suicides,” said parenting blogger Leslie Morgan Steiner.

Steiner believes parents of children who are fans should watch the program with them and discuss it.

“Talk to them and, most importantly, listen to them,” Steiner said.

About 8 percent of ninth through 12th graders attempt suicide, according to Steiner, who said that parents should be on the lookout for self-destructive behavior and warning signs.

“I have to caution everybody, because some of these are just normal teenage behaviors. But follow your instincts and pay close attention to your kids.”

Potential red flags include:

  • Extreme changes in behavior or appearance
  • Evidence of cutting skin with a razor blade or knife
  • An increase in any kind of self-destructive behavior
  • Spending more time alone or in his or her room constantly with the door shut

“Don’t let them withdraw,” Steiner warned.

Parents shouldn’t hesitate to get psychological or psychiatric help for children, she said, whether they want it or not.

“This is not the time to be your kid’s best friend,” Steiner said. “This is the time to push your kid to get help,”

Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for people 10 to 24 years old, after murder and accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Anyone having thoughts of suicide is encouraged to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or online.

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