Netflix series ’13 Reasons Why’ has local school districts discussing suicide

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KIRKWOOD, MO (KPLR) – The Netflix series 13 Reasons Why has some St. Louis area school districts warning parents about the potential impact the content of the show could have on their child.

The show tells the story of a teenage girl who reveals the reasons behind her suicide through tapes sent to her friends, whom she believes contributed to her death.

On Thursday, leaders with the Kirkwood School District sent a letter to parents encouraging them to talk about the show if they or their children have watched it in any capacity.

A part of letter states:

"Dear KSD Families,

“Mental health and education professionals across the country have expressed concern after viewing the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, adapted from the 2007 novel of the same title.

“Although the novel has been a popular read among students the past couple of years and was on the New York Times bestseller list in 2011, the Netflix series is significantly different in its portrayal of death by suicide."

"A lot of kids are watching it," said Kelli McDonald, a parent of a student. "So I think it's great that they reached out and gave people that heads up."

The letter implies the school district's concern that some students may identify too strongly with the content of the show.

"I think in regards to the show or the book I would say read it yourself first or watch it yourself first and then decide could my child handle this," McDonald said.

Other parents said that while they can't keep track of everything their child is doing, it's a relief knowing that district officials are looking out for them.

"I appreciate them bringing this to our attention because I can't as much as I try, to keep tabs on my kids all the time with what they are doing online and otherwise," said Leslie Rottger.

"Unless you are watching what they are on and following them on the internet, you will never know unless they say something," said Kevin Gibson.

That's why the letter also encouraged parents to talk to their children openly and to contact their school counselor if necessary.

The letter listed several resources to guide parents when talking with their child about death by suicide.

That includes web links to Preventing Youth Suicide: Tips for Parents and Educators
National Association of School Psychologists and 7 Essential Steps Parents Can Take to Prevent Teen Suicide.

The letter also listed the American Psychological Association
Life Crisis Services 24/7 Hotline: 314-647-HELP (4357) / 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Meanwhile, Parkway School District confirmed to FOX 2 that the district also sent a similar warning letter to parents.

FOX 2 reached out to Netflix via its media contact portal but our request for a statement was not immediately answered.