Updates and Media: “13 Reasons Why” Applications and Thoughts

Content Warning: Suicide, Self Harm, Gun violence. Possible spoilers in comments about 13 Reasons Why Season 1 and 2.

I am back in Williamsburg working on my thesis. Lately, my goals have predominantly been conducing a literature review a recruiting participants. The project already has over 100 participants interviewed, but I am currently recruiting more families to participate in the study to get our retention rate up. Working on a longitudinal project for my thesis has been such a great experience, and I can’t wait to be done with the interviewing and recruiting process and move on to the data analysis part.
Like most College students, after a day of doing and reading I love to unwind by watching Netflix. Many television shows out right now are exploring teen mental health in various ways. Adolescent social and emotional development is such a hot topic in the media. A specific controversial and popular show is “13 Reasons Why.” Adapted from a novel of the same name, “13 reasons Why” aims to create a dialogue about teen mental health. Set in a high school, a suicide shakes the school community and leaves characters asking what they could have done. The show graphically depicts suicide, self harm, gun violence, mental health crises, bullying, and many other psychosocial issues that characters struggle with. While the series has been criticized for their handling of mental health by some, it has also been applauded by others for creating a space for these hard issues to be discussed. My feelings are somewhat in the middle of these two views. I appreciate mental health getting to be talked about and not hidden or shamed, but I also think graphical depictions of suicide, school shootings, and self harm can be detrimental to many who are struggling.

Watching the second season, I was interested to see the role that parents play in teen mental health come to the forefront. In various scenes, parents play a big role in talking with their children about stressful events, and in some cases, making the stressful situations much worse. “13 Reasons Why” highlights the big part that parents play in their child’s emotional and social well-being. This specifically interests me because my thesis is looking at how positive parenting can support teen mental health.

What do you think? If you feel comfortable commenting, do you think the show is positive or negative in regards to discussing teen mental health issues? Which parents in the show did the best job of supporting their children? Which did the worst? Is there a parent or scene involving a parent in “13 Reasons Why” that really sticks out to you?


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