Let’s talk about 13 Reasons Why

Issue: Volume 96, Number 8

Posted: 15 May 2017
Reference #: 1H9d7p

A new television show raises a lot of questions but doesn’t provide any answers, writes Shaun Robinson of the New Zealand Mental Health Foundation.

It seems like everyone is talking about 13 Reasons Why. Some people find it pretty disturbing, like 17-year-old Bree Brown, who wrote that the show reinforces some dangerous myths about suicide. Others think it is starting conversations about issues that get swept under the rug – like slut-shaming, bullying, sexual violence and suicide.

I can see both sides.

Yes, these conversations are important, and we should be having them. The issues raised in the series are sadly a reality for many of our young people and they can have a devastating impact on our communities.

But conversations and stories that oversimplify the causes of suicide, present suicide as a reasonable response to difficult circumstances, explicitly discuss methods of suicide and fail to explore any solutions or avenues of help aren’t safe conversations and put vulnerable people at risk of taking their own lives.

We need to have open, honest and informed conversations about these really challenging topics and be prepared to keep talking about them. We need conversations that help people to understand that suicide is preventable, that we each have the power to help those in need and that most people who feel suicidal will go on to recover and lead great lives.

It’s likely that young people will watch this show, or have friends who watch it. The show raises a lot of questions, but it doesn’t provide any answers. It’s important that they don’t feel like they’ve done something wrong by watching it, or feel they can’t talk about the issues the show has raised.

I’ve suggested 13 conversations that could be had with young people about 13 Reasons Why. It’s quite a long list. Pick the stuff that works for you and go with that.

My list is on The Spinoff website(external link)


Schools have an important role in preventing youth suicide. A key message educators can give is ‘Suicide is never a solution – talk to an adult. There is always help available’.

Make sure you know what support is available within your school community. Help is also available from:

  • Lifeline 0800-543354 (open 24/7).
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline 0508-828865 (open 24/7).
  • Youthline 0800-376633 (open 24/7) or text 234 from 8am-midnight.
  • 0800 WHATSUP helpline, 0800-9428787 (phone line open 11 am - 11 pm, online chat 11 am - 10.30 pm).

See also the helpful considerations for educators provided by the National Association of School Psychologists USA by their website(external link).

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 9:04 pm, 15 May 2017

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