NASP Position Statement on the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why”

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Here is NASP Position Statement on the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why”. I think that it is important to be careful with the information and discussions we have around suicide. This position statement is worth reading.

13 reasons NASP

Guidance for Educators

  1. While we do not recommend that all students view this series, it can be appreciated as an opportunity to better understand young people’s experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Children and youth who view this series will need supportive adults to process it. Take this opportunity to both prevent the risk of harm and identify ongoing social and behavior problems in the school community that may need to be addressed.
  2. Help students articulate their perceptions when viewing controversial content, such as 13 Reasons Why. The difficult issues portrayed do occur in schools and communities, and it is important for adults to listen, take adolescents’ concerns seriously, and be willing to offer to help.
  3. Reinforce that school-employed mental health professionals are available to help. Emphasize that the behavior of the second counselor in the series is understood by virtually all school-employed mental health professionals as inappropriate. It is important that all school-employed mental health professionals receive training in suicide risk assessment.
  4. Make sure parents, teachers, and students are aware of suicide risk warning signs. Always take warning signs seriously, and never promise to keep them secret. Establish a confidential reporting mechanism for students.Common signs include:
    • Suicide threats, both direct (“I am going to kill myself.” “I need life to stop.”) and indirect (“I need it to stop.” “I wish I could fall asleep and never wake up.”). Threats can be verbal or written, and they are often found in online postings.
    • Giving away prized possessions.
    • Preoccupation with death in conversation, writing, drawing, and social media.
    • Changes in behavior, appearance/hygiene, thoughts, and/or feelings. This can include someone who is typically sad who suddenly becomes extremely happy.
    • Emotional distress.
  5. Students who feel suicidal are not likely to seek help directly; however, parents, school personnel, and peers can recognize the warning signs and take immediate action to keep the youth safe. When a student gives signs that they may be considering suicide, take the following actions.
    • Remain calm, be nonjudgmental, and listen. Strive to understand the intolerable emotional pain that has resulted in suicidal thoughts.
    • Avoid statements that might be perceived as minimizing the student’s emotional pain (e.g., “You need to move on.” or “You should get over it.”).
    • Ask the student directly if they are thinking about suicide (i.e., “Are you thinking of suicide?”).
    • Focus on your concern for their well-being and avoid being accusatory.
    • Reassure the student that there is help and they will not feel like this forever.
    • Provide constant supervision. Do not leave the student alone.
    • Without putting yourself in danger, remove means for self-harm, including any weapons the person might find.
    • Get help. Never agree to keep a student’s suicidal thoughts a secret. Instead, school staff should take the student to a school-employed mental health professional. Parents should seek help from school or community mental health resources. Students should tell an appropriate caregiving adult, such as a school psychologist, administrator, parent, or teacher.
  6. School or district officials should determine how to handle memorials after a student has died. Promote memorials that benefit others (e.g., donations for a suicide prevention program) and activities that foster a sense of hope and encourage positive action. The memorial should not glorify, highlight, or accentuate the individual’s death. It may lead to imitative behaviors or a suicide contagion (Brock et al., 2016).
  7. Reinforcing resiliency factors can lessen the potential of risk factors that lead to suicidal ideation and behaviors. Once a child or adolescent is considered at risk, schools, families, and friends should work to build these factors in and around the youth.
    • Family support and cohesion, including good communication.
    • Peer support and close social networks.
    • School and community connectedness.
    • Cultural or religious beliefs that discourage suicide and promote healthy living.
    • Adaptive coping and problem-solving skills, including conflict resolution.
    • General life satisfaction, good self-esteem, and a sense of purpose.
    • Easy access to effective medical and mental health resources.
  8. Strive to ensure that all student spaces on campus are monitored and that the school environment is truly safe, supportive, and free of bullying.
  9. If additional guidance is needed, ask for support from your building- or district-level crisis team. The team may be able to assist with addressing unique situations affecting your building.

See Preventing Suicide: Guidelines for Administrators and Crisis Teams for additional guidance.

Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) and the JED Foundation have created talking points for conversations with youth specific to the 13 Reasons Why series, available online.

Guidance for Families

  1. Ask your child if they have heard or seen the series 13 Reasons Why. While we don’t recommend that they be encouraged to view the series, do tell them you want to watch it, with them or to catch up, and discuss their thoughts.
  2. If they exhibit any of the warning signs above, don’t be afraid to ask if they have thought about suicide or if someone is hurting them. Raising the issue of suicide does not increase the risk or plant the idea. On the contrary, it creates the opportunity to offer help.
  3. Ask your child if they think any of their friends or classmates exhibit warning signs. Talk with them about how to seek help for their friend or classmate. Guide them on how to respond when they see or hear any of the warning signs.
  4. Listen to your children’s comments without judgment. Doing so requires that you fully concentrate, understand, respond, and then remember what is being said. Put your own agenda aside.
  5. Get help from a school-employed or community-based mental health professional if you are concerned for your child’s safety or the safety of one of their peers.

See Preventing Youth Suicide Brief Facts (also available in Spanish) and Preventing Youth Suicide: Tips or Parents and Educators for additional information.

Safe Messaging for Students

  1. Suicide is never a solution. It is an irreversible choice regarding a temporary problem. There is help. If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or know someone who is, talk to a trusted adult, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text “START” to 741741.
  2. Don’t be afraid to talk to your friends about how they feel and let them know you care about them.
  3. Be an “upstander” and take actions to reduce bullying and increase positive connections among others. Report concerns.
  4. Never promise to keep secret behaviors that represent a danger toward another person.
  5. Suicide is preventable. People considering suicide typically say something or do something that is a warning sign. Always take warning signs seriously and know the warning signs.
    • Suicide threats, both direct (“I am going to kill myself.”) and indirect (“I wish I could fall asleep and never wake up.”). Can be verbal, written, or posted online.
    • Suicide notes and planning, including online postings.
    • Preoccupation with death in conversation, writing, drawing, and social media.
    • Changes in behavior, appearance/hygiene, thoughts, and/or feelings.
    • Emotional distress.
  6. Separate myths and facts.
    • MYTH: Talking about suicide will make someone want to commit suicide who has never thought about it before. FACT: There is no evidence to suggest that talking about suicide plants the idea. Talking with your friend about how they feel and letting them know that you care about them is important. This is the first step in getting your friend help.
    • MYTH: People who struggle with depression or other mental illness are just weak. FACT: Depression and other mental illnesses are serious health conditions and are treatable.
    • MYTH: People who talk about suicide won’t really do it. FACT: People, particularly young people who are thinking about suicide, typically demonstrate warning signs. Always take these warning signs seriously.
  7. Never leave the person alone; seek out a trusted adult immediately. School-employed mental health professionals like your school psychologist are trusted sources of help.
  8. Work with other students and the adults in the school if you want to develop a memorial for someone who has committed suicide. Although decorating a student’s locker, creating a memorial social media page, or other similar activities are quick ways to remember the student who has died, they may influence others to imitate or have thoughts of wanting to die as well. It is recommended that schools develop memorial activities that encourage hope and promote positive outcomes for others (e.g., suicide prevention programs).

Read these helpful points from SAVE.org and the JED Foundation to further understand how 13 Reasons Why dramatizes situations and the realities of suicide. See Save a Friend: Tips for Teens to Prevent Suicide for additional information.

Additional Resources

Websites

References

Brock, S. E., Nickerson, A. B., Louvar Reeves, M. A., Conolly, S., Jimerson, S., Pesce, R, & Lazarro, B. (2016). School crisis prevention and intervention: The PREPaRE model (2nd ed.). Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.

Contributors: Christina Conolly, Kathy Cowan, Peter Faustino, Ben Fernandez, Stephen Brock, Melissa Reeves, Rich Lieberman


© 2017, National Association of School Psychologists, 4340 East West Highway, Suite 402, Bethesda, MD 20814, 301-657-0270, http://www.nasponline.org

Document may be adapted or excerpted with proper acknowledgement. Please cite as:

National Association of School Psychologists. (2017). 13 Reasons Why Netflix series: Considerations for educators [handout]. Bethesda, MD: Author.

Printable Version

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Related Resources

Save a Friend: Tips for Teens to Prevent Youth Suicide
Share this handout with teens on how to prevent suicide among their peers.

Preventing Youth Suicide: Brief Facts and Tips
Share this handout with basic information on warning signs and prevention measures for youth suicide.

Preventing Youth Suicide: Tips for Parents and Educators
Parents and teachers are in a key position to identify warning signs and get youth the help they need.

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Childhood Cancer and School

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Fact Sheets/ Articles

Childhood Cancer and School – Fact Sheet

Types of Children’s Cancer

Educational Issues Following Treatment for Childhood Cancer

Collaborating With Physicians: A Guide for School Leaders (NASP)

Potential 504 Accommodations for a Student Undergoing Treatment for Childhood Cancer or a Hematologic Disorder (PDF)

Helping Schools Cope With Childhood Cancer Current Facts and Creative Solutions

Tips for Teachers: Helping the Child with Cancer

• If possible, visit or call the child in the hospital or at home. Let them know you are thinking of them.

• Children will benefit from talking with teachers, parents, or hospital personnel in preparation for the return to school. They will cope far better knowing what to expect, and how to respond. They also need a chance to express their worries and concerns and to know how these will be addressed.

• Be alert to rumours on the school yard and attempt to dispel them as soon as possible. It may be helpful to have a standard response to inquiries, with approval from the family (e.g., “He’s getting excellent care and we are hopeful he will get well.”).

• Work with families and hospital staff to develop an educational program that will meet the child’s needs. Let the child know that you will help them continue with their education and stay connected with their friends.

• When the child returns to school designate a person who the child knows well as a “go to” person. This individual can check in with the child regularly, and be available if the student needs to let someone know they are physically or emotionally uncomfortable.

• Most children who attend school report that they just want to be treated like everyone else. As hard as it may be, try not to be overprotective. Normalize the child’s school experience as much as possible, while adjusting expectations when needed.

• When the child cannot attend for longer periods of time, establish regular contact with the parents or a liaison from the treatment centre. Plan ways that classmates can maintain regular contact with the child.

• Encourage a supportive classroom environment

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CureSearch for Children’s Cancer Series-  Guidance for school personnel

When You First Learn a Child in Your School Has Been Diagnosed with Cancer

Supporting a Child During Treatment

Supporting a Child’s Return to School

Guidance for Parents

LIVESTRONG at School program

The LIVESTRONG at School program uses national standards-based lessons to teach your students about the realities of cancer. While it is a difficult subject to talk about with kids, it is important for students to understand what cancer is and how it can be treated. In addition, this program informs your students about ways that they can make a difference and help those with cancer. The downloadable lessons and printable worksheets below make it easy for you to share this valuable information with your class.  Questions and Answers about Cancer

 LIVESTRONG at School, Grades K-2

LIVESTRONG at School, Grades 3-6

LIVESTRONG at School, Grades 7-8

LIVESTRONG at School, Grades 9-12

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Latch Key Kids

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A latchkey kid or latchkey child is a child who returns from school to an empty home because their parent or parents are away at work, or a child who is often left at home with little parental supervision. (More)

Having your child stay at home alone is a big deal worth preparing to be ready to do successfully. Here is a collection of articles and guides to help with the process.

Articles

When it’s just you After School

Parent Guidebook of Kids Alone at Home

Latchkey Kids in the 21st Century: Keeping Your Kids Safe When You’re Not Home

Why are we so afraid to leave children alone? UCI study finds moral judgments about parents affect perceptions of risk

Latchkey Kids

Legal Age Restrictions for Latchkey Kids

The Library and the Latchkey
“Current trends are again influencing youth services in libraries. Economic and social conditions have increased the need for child care services and created the phenomenon of the so–called &’latchkey child’—the school–aged child who has no parent or guardian at home after school hours and has no alternative care arrangement…. It is not surprising that great numbers of children are in the public library unattended after school, on school holidays, and during emergency closing days such as snow days. What role do public libraries have to play in providing safe shelter for the nation’s children? Where does the library’s responsibility to community needs end? Who will provide the after–school services to children if the public library closes its doors?”

The New Latchkey Kids
“More than a million grade–schoolers have nobody to take care of them once class lets out. Where have all the after–school programs gone?”

Protecting Your Kids When They’re Home Alone
Information from the National Safe Kids Campaign.

Self Care for School Age Children
Report from the Australian Institute for Family Studies, guidelines for parents and children, resources in Australia.

When It’s Just You After School
Information for kids from KidsHealth, includes safety tips.

Keeping Your Latchkey Kid Safe at Home

Kids Home Alone? Follow These Safety Steps

Home Alone Activities

Videos

Readiness to stay home video

Walking Home

Checklist

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