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Talking to Students About Suicide and 13 Reasons Why

13 reasons why

The teen years are a difficult time for everyone. The reality is that, for many students, the teen years can be so traumatizing that they can’t imagine the future. They simply are at the point of considering the end of their young life. Teen suicide rates have gone up and it is something that more schools need to address with their students. There are programs available to discuss the topic to help peers if they know someone who may be suicidal.

Teen suicide is not a new topic, but it has recently gotten more attention thanks to a popular young adult book 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. The book has been on the top of the NY Times bestsellers list since it was published ten years ago. The focus on the book has escalated due to it being turned into a Netflix original series produced by Selena Gomez. The premise of the story is that a character Clay Jensen finds a package at his house. Inside the package are several cassette tapes which have recordings from Hannah Baker. Hannah committed suicide two weeks before the cassettes arrived. Her painful story of why she ended her life is told on these tapes, and Clay figures it out.

Many schools across the country have sent letters home warning families about the Netflix series. They are concerned about copycat cases of suicide happening due to the popularity of the book and show. The reality is that the book and series can actually be utilized as a way to talk to teens. While the series is graphic, the subject is important and should not be brushed aside. School professionals and families must take the time to discuss matters within the book. Teens need to know that they are not alone and have people in their life who will be there if something happens to them.

Take time to discuss how to utilize 13 Reasons Why within your school and district. Invite parents, teachers, counselors, and students to be a part of this process. There are resources available on an information page from the book. This website also points to a sheet about talking points from the series put out by the Jed Foundation. It is crucial to take time to talk about teen suicide and other topics which are brought up in 13 Reasons Why. Sharing this information ahead of time will save lives. It will also open up the dialogue on suicide, sexual assault, and other tough topics that must not be ignored.


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