Netflix Show "13 Reasons Why" Concerns Fort Wayne Health Officials

May 16, 2017

The title screen of 13 Reasons Why on Netflix
Credit By Source, Fair use,

Recently, discussions about mental health have focused on a Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why. The show is about a high school student who kills herself, and some Fort Wayne health organizations are concerned about the way the show portrays suicide.

The Northeast Indiana Stop Suicide Coalition has concerns about the show's portrayal. Suicide Prevention Consultant Colleen Carpenter says one in five Indiana high school students have considered suicide over the last year.

“So we know that the one youth that dies is not the only one struggling,” she said. “So how do we prevent that suicide from morphing into what we call contagion. And that's what we are actually worried about with 13 Reasons Why.”

Carpenter says the show lacks an important message. The main character in the series confides in her high school counselor and he fails to provide coping strategies. The Coalition wants students to be able to identify suicide risks and to feel comfortable about having open conversations.

“People who end up choosing suicide are not wanting to die,” she said. “They’re just in so much pain they want the pain to end.”

McMillen Health’s Linda Hathaway says the show needed to make viewers aware the main character had major mental health issues. She says ignoring these signs is usually the core problem.

“As friends and as family members we need to be paying attention to the mental health of the people around us.” said Hathaway.

Hathaway says McMillen offers programs and resources for struggling youth and education for families and peers with ways to help.

Even though health officials warn of issues with the series, they say the show introduced a positive conversation about how to educate teens and adults about suicide prevention strategies.