RVA Parenting: Why and how to talk to your kids about '13 Reasons Why'

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If you haven't heard about the Netflix Series hit, "13 reasons Why," you will.

It's taking over social media and is incredibly popular with teens.

But that popularity is sounding alarm bells for mental health workers, and they have an important warning for parents.

In the show, a girl named Hannah takes her own life and leaves cassette tapes for the 13 reasons why she did it, blaming many people close to her for the decision.

"At one point she tries to talk to her best friend- her best friend betrays her," said Marta Leon, a prevention specialist with the Richmond Behavior Health Authority. "These are real issues."

And it's that relatability -- especially to teens -- that could be so alarming. Not only are the episodes dealing with big issues, and some would say glorifying suicide, there's also the concern that kids are binge watching the episodes.

"They are watching episode after episode after episode in a row, which might come off very overwhelming versus one episode at a time watching that, digesting that," said Melissa Ackley, Prevention Service manager at Chesterfield Mental Health.

Experts say to start with a conversation.

"Have you heard of this show? Have your friends been watching this show?" said Ackley.

If your kid is watching it, you should probably watch it as well. And these experts say the best practice is for you to watch it first alone.

"I would suggest you process it first," said Leon. "That way when it comes up, you kind of see you're no longer focused on what's going on in the scene, you're focused on your child's body movement."

Be open to what your child might say. If they say they have had thoughts of suicide, don't dismiss them. Make a call to get help right away.

Make sure your child sees support systems that exist- have your child name places he or she can go for help.

"This is how we're building their resilience," said Leon. "That I have mommy and daddy that are going to be there for me. I have my friends that love me. I have my pet dog that is happy to see me when I come in the door. Anything."

And consider how you can show your child in small ways, that they are loved.

"As a child, as a teenager, if you see that your friend is struggling," said Leon, "if you see a lot of these signs, or maybe you don't, or maybe you see them sad one day, there's no harm in giving them a piece of paper '13 reasons why you're important to me.' You never know. You just don't. You don't' know what they're going through. You don't know what they're feeling."

Experts also say to make sure your child knows how to get help at school and who to go to.





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