Beware of 'suicide TV show' ... Children's advocate, psychologist warn parents

May 22, 2017
Diahann Gordon Harrison
Dr Patrece Charles


The Office of the Children's Advocate has vowed to launch a probe into the possible implications that a popular Netflix show, '13 Reasons Why', might have on impressionable teens.

The drama series, which was named 2017's most tweeted show so far, focuses on a high schoolgirl who commits suicide.

She leaves behind 13 tapes graphically depicting all the reasons she decided to end her life. It features multiple sexual assault and substance abuse scenes, and includes a vivid depiction of the troubled teen killing herself.

Already, some school officials in the US and UK have written letters to parents warning them about the show.

According to the UK's Daily Mail, The American School in London is among those that sent a letter to parents expressing concerns that the show could 'appeal' to struggling students - and urging them to prevent teens watching alone.

Upon learning of the show's premise, and its popularity among teens, Children's Advocate, Diahann Gordon Harrison, said there is basis for concern, and a need to examine the show's content.


Traumatic episodes


"Anything at all that has content that is so graphic that it could pose a problem, is cause for concern, whether in terms of having traumatic episodes surface in children who see it, or giving children who already have suicidal ideations further tips on how to commit suicide," Gordon Harrison said.

She further advised that for children who have already seen the show, parents should have a frank discussion about the content, then seek proper intervention if necessary from trained professionals.

Counselling psychologist Dr Patrece Charles also expressed concern about the show.

"I don't think that parents are communicating with their children enough for me to not be concerned. I think if there was a collaborative approach to parenting, shows such as that one wouldn't be that much of a problem, because the parenting would have a greater, and more positive impact on the child than the show," she said.

Dr Charles advised parents should not ban their children from watching the show as it might cause them to become even more curious about it.

Rather, she advised that if their children have already viewed the show, parents should use it as a learning tool to bring up the difficult discussions depicted in the show.

"Don't be afraid to talk about suicide or the emotions that would lead to suicidal ideations. A lot of parents think that if they talk about it, it's planting something in the minds of the child. No, being aware of something can possibly change their lives," she said.

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