DPS Letter about “13 Reasons Why”

Posted 05/09/2017

You may have heard about a new Netflix series titled 13 Reasons Why. The series is about a high school student who takes her own life. Although the series is fictional, young people may relate to the experiences shared in the series. 13 Reasons Why is popular amongst middle and high school students. Yet, we are hearing from school districts across the nation that some younger people are viewing the shows as well. We do not recommend this series for elementary-aged students. I am writing to inform you about 13 Reasons Why and its possible impact on our students. Again, 13 Reasons Why is gaining popularity. We have concerns that the series may increase thoughts of suicide among students.

The show is based on a novel and the story of 17-year-old girl who takes her own life. She leaves behind 13 recordings explaining the reasons why she chose to commit suicide. While the show brings up the importance of talking about suicidal thoughts, it portrays situations where youth are dealing with serious issues, from bullying to sexual assault, without getting support from adults.

Denver Public Schools teaches the Signs of Suicide (SOS) curriculum in sixth and ninth grades across the district. We also have mental health staff available for our elementary schools. The SOS curriculum focuses on supporting students to identify warning signs of depression or thoughts of suicide and to make a report to a trusted adult for support. Our school psychologists, school nurses, social workers and counselors are trained in suicide prevention and supports and, unlike some of the adults in 13 Reasons Why, take all reports seriously.

You may wish to discuss the series, or thoughts of suicide, with your student. Talk to your student about what they can do if they have a friend who is expressing thoughts about hurting themselves. As we discuss in the SOS curriculum, teach your student to acknowledge if they have a problem, be caring and tell an adult. Remind your student that there is help available if they ever feel sad or depressed. Be sure your student has the hotline numbers listed below.

Please consider the age and developmental stage of your student before allowing them to watch the show. We do not recommend that students with a history of suicidal thoughts, depression or mental health concerns watch 13 Reasons Why. If you do allow your child to watch this series, we recommend you watch it with them and discuss it afterwards.

If your student has warning signs of depression or suicide, don’t be afraid to ask if they have thought about suicide. Raising the issue of suicide does not increase the risk. Instead, it decreases the risk by providing an opportunity for help.

If your child needs assistance, please reach out to your school mental health staff.

Helpful Resources

Colorado Crisis and Support Line at 844-493-8255, or Text TALK to 38255
National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255
Safe2Tell at 877-542-7233
Trevor Project Hotline for Suicide Prevention for LGBTQ youth 866-488-7386

National Association of School Psychologists Considerations for Educators: