The highly rated Netflix show 13 Reasons Why came storming onto the media scene in 2017 and has left us talking ever since. It’s apparent that the content shared in this highly controversial show is striking a cord with viewers. After all, just weeks after the debut of the second season, the network announced the order of a third season.
While my children are still young, (both will be entering kindergarten this fall) I relate to 13 Reasons Why through being an administrator in a school district and through the experiences I had in my own adolescence. I wholeheartedly believe we need to talk about these things, not just with fellow parents but with our children, with our educators, with our legislators. The hard topics that are addressed in this brave show are happening in real life. It’s not a reality tv show but for many it is reality.
Here are the 13 very real topics from the show and reasons why we should be talking about them:
- According to the CDC suicide is the third leading cause of death in youth ages 10 to 24 which equates to approximately 4,600 deaths each year. Keep in mind this doesn’t include all of the failed attempts. Mental health has become a trending topic in recent years and should continue to be top of mind and conversation until the stigma around it is erased and children and adults alike are not afraid to ask for help.
- Cutting happens and you have no idea. Confession here: I used to cut. You can still see the scars on my arms and legs if you look closely enough. My children have asked what they’re from and one day I will explain the truth. I was cutting before cutting was a “thing”. In truth, it started with poking a needle in my arm and it grew from there. I started in 7th grade, yes 7th. It wasn’t until I was about 16 that I was diagnosed with anxiety and treated properly. Mental Illness is something I have always had to learn to manage and will for the rest of my life. Were it not for the loved ones in my life, including an amazing teacher, I am not sure what would have happened. One day I could have cut too deep. My message, pay attention to your kids’ bodies.
- Sexual abuse among teenagers happens. It happens often. Talk to your sons and daughters about it, let them know that it’s not ok to be touched inappropriately. Let them know there is no shame and it’s not their fault if it does. Let them know you will protect them with every fiber of your being when it becomes public knowledge, because it does need to become public knowledge. You must tell the authorities and the school.
- Bullying is not ok. Teach your children to be kind. We never know the whole story or what someone else is going through. Also, teach them that if they are being bullied they can always tell you and you will take a stand against it together.
- Sex. Sex should not be a taboo topic in your home. Talk about sex, it’s natural. Talk about when it’s appropriate, when it’s not. Talk about the right time and about not pressuring someone else. Making sure their companion is as comfortable with it as they are should also be discussed.
- Substance Abuse. Our nation is dealing with a very real opioid epidemic. It’s so real our schools are now carrying Narcan (a medicine injected similarly to epipens to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose). Alcohol has always been another common crutch and will continue to be. Give it a minute and something else will be another way for kids and adults alike to numb their pain or have a little fun. Know the warning signs of substance abuse in children and be alert to them.
- Homosexuality/LGBTQ+. This can be a sensitive subject due to many differing views and opinions on the subject. While some of these views are religious based others may be based on closed mindedness and bigotry. Teach your children that while we may not agree with the lifestyle others choose we do need to be kind and show respect. If your family is open-minded and supportive of the LGBTQ+ community then teach your children to support those who belong to it! Stand up for them and be their friend.
- Physical Violence is never the answer. Solve problems with words or by simply walking away. If someone is a victim of physical violence then it should be reported. Do not let bullies win.
- Open communication is so important; in families, in schools, between people we trust. Keep the dialogue going long after this show’s effects have subsided. Let your children know they can always always always come to you.
- Along the same vein of open communication is knowing what’s going on. While we like to believe that our children will come to us with anything we can’t lose sight of the fact that they may not. Staying in the know will sometimes involve going through their phones, computers, laptops, cars, closet, you name it.
- Mental Illness is very encompassing and includes more than depression. Anxiety, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders, postpartum depression and post traumatic stress disorder are just a handful of the diseases that fall under mental illness. Even substance abuse can fall in this category if deemed an addiction. It’s ok to get help. I started seeing a counselor when I was 14 and have on and off since. My son started seeing one at the ripe age of 5 because we want him expressing his feelings and any hardships around gender creativity and fluidness. The more we do to erase the stigma around mental illness the better our society as a whole will be.
- Do not, I repeat, DO NOT convince yourself or let others tell you that these things aren’t happening. Statistics prove that they are. While we might think this is a show around “adult” topics they are very real for our teens and even younger. School shootings are a prime example of how real all of the above issues are. Whether or not you decide to watch it or allow your children to watch it please do not keep these subjects off the table.
- If your child is watching it then watch it together. Talk about it together. The point of this show is to open dialogue and bring light to real life issues our kids are facing.