Using 13 Reasons Why to Discuss Mental Health with Students
Aug 31, 2018 2018-08-31
By Kelsey Podgorski
With students ramping up their daily screen time, sometimes the most convenient place to find a lesson is within pop culture. Netflix's series 13 Reasons Why, based on the novel Th1rteen R3asons Why by Jay Asher, dives into serious real-life topics that face teenagers, including issues like depression, suicide, substance abuse, bullying, sexual assault, gun violence, and more.
These discussions can be heavy and difficult to approach without the right guidance. Using the TV series as a starting point, Netflix developed a resource-rich website called 13reasonswhy.info to help educators and parents broach these topics with teens. The site has information about the show and where to find it, as well as messages from the cast encouraging schools to have conversations about mental health. The show can be triggering to certain individuals and it is recommended to watch with a trusted adult or skipping out entirely.
The site allows visitors to select their country, and then displays additional resources for people struggling with issues based on their location. In the United States, the resources include contact information for the Crisis Text Line and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
One of the most valuable resources on the site is a Discussion Guide that is appropriate for both educators and parents. The guide discusses the show and offers tips for watching and creating meaningful discussions that offer teens a safe space to talk openly about their feelings on the show and each topic.
The guide offers discussion questions to get the conversation started. It prompts students to think critically about whether the adults in the show handled various situations properly, who they would turn to for support if they needed help, and how to know when to set boundaries and when to offer compassion. The discussion guide outlines many social and mental health issues with details on how to recognize each situation and what to do if you or a friend needs help. The guide rounds out with additional resources about each topic categorized by immediate help, further reading, and additional resources.
Topics like bullying, drug or alcohol abuse, anxiety, depression, and suicide prevention are never easy to discuss with students. Bridging the gap through popular media, like 13 Reasons Why, can help open up difficult conversations and bring a new level of understanding to students.